One unfortunate thing about asparagus is that it ain’t cheap, even in the spring when it’s in season. Here in the Northwest we grow about forty percent of our nation’s asparagus and as soon as it starts showing up at our local markets, it’s snatched up as fast as it’s put out for sale, regardless of the price. I always think of it as something special and somewhat exotic having only experienced canned asparagus growing up in the South. One year my Mother came to visit here and was so overjoyed with the abundance of fresh asparagus, she bought me a huge box and told me to freeze it. It tasted just okay. From then on, it’s been only fresh and seasonal asparagus for me.
The prep is simple. As with most fresh vegetables, eat asparagus as soon as you can. If you aren’t going to use your asparagus within a few days, store like a bouquet of flowers in a container with an inch or two of water at the bottom. Keep in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, snap off the tough bottoms of the stalk and steam for about 4 minutes or so, depending on the size of the stalk. Or you can use one of my favorite methods — slather with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven for around 10 minutes, again, less time for the skinny stalks.
I stumbled upon a recipe for a lemony butter sauce from the all-inspiring Canal House and decided to give it a try. Had I known that it’s basically a hollandaise sauce, I may have been reluctant just because that sounds so much more difficult and time-consuming. But lemon butter?? Even a lazy cook like me could master that. It is, in fact, quite easy as they said it would be and and still, essentially hollandaise. I’m glad I got tricked into it and love that it only has 4 ingredients that I’m likely to have on hand.
Canal House Lemony Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks
2 T water
8 T cold salted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Whisk egg yolks together with water in heavy saucepan. Begin warming beaten yolks over very low heat, whisking all the while.
Gradually add the cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, keep whisking and waiting for each tablespoon to incorporate before adding the next.
After all the butter is incorporated, take the pan off the stove and whisk in the lemon juice. The sauce will become lighter and thicker, almost foamy.
If you aren’t going to use right away, store over a pot of hot water. (This worked well for me while I was photographing but I tried to reheat it later and it separated. I think the water may have been too hot).
Add a poached egg to your asparagus along with a couple of spoonfuls of this luscious lemony butter sauce and you have a killer brunch meal or even dinner. Canal House served theirs with some homemade pasta, which was good and different but I also loved it on top of a big bed of spring mixed greens instead.
Asparagus also makes a super simple appetizer. Just steam it and serve with a dipping bowl of lemony butter sauce, homemade mayonnaise or gribiche.
Roasted and wrapped in prosciutto is another easy and delicious way to serve it as an app. If you’re feeling a tad more ambitious, you can add a few spring greens, a little olive oil and some lemon zest. Mix together and lay on a bed of overlapping slices of prosciutto.
Roll the whole thing up, cigarette-style and slice into individual servings.
The possibilities for dishes using asparagus are many — in salads, risotto, stir-fry, on pizza. The season has just begun so you have some time to let your imagination run wild. It’s needs are few — you rarely even have to chop it. Now that’s my kind of vegetable and it could be yours. Just buy it.