White Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche

End Of Season

This tends to be a combination we like to serve towards the end of the asparagus season. The combination of asparagus with capers, cornichons and chives is unusual but it works really well with both green and white asparagus.

In most countries the season for asparagus is well-defined. It starts around April 23rd (St.George’s Day) and finishes on June 24th (the nativity of Saint John the Baptist). Green asparagus tend to be available all year round, however we recommend being careful. It’s a bit silly to buy the very skinny ones grown in darkest Peru. Nothing wrong with Peru, we love Paddington, it’s just that following the season and focusing on local, organic products is our preferred approach, but not in a dogmatic way.

Sauce Gribiche

This sauce is made with chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon. In this case we use chives only because especially the tarragon would be too much for the asparagus. Chives give it a touch of onion, which is exactly what the sauce needs.
Two notes regarding the oil: when you want to make a true sauce Gribiche (so with chervil, parsley and tarragon plus more vinegar) you would add more oil to give it volume and smoothness. In this case you want a very rich sauces with clear presence of all ingredients. And (second note) because we use less oil we use excellent olive oil only. Otherwise you would use a combination of olive or grapeseed oil with a more neutral oil like sunflower or arachis (peanut) oil.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus with sauce Gribiche with a glass of Macon (Louis Jadot Mâcon Villages Grange Magnien). The wine (100% chardonnay) comes with some gentle acidity and minerality, which is great with the acidity of the Sauce Gribiche. It’s fruity with a floral scent.

Interestingly you can also combine the dish with wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. We very much liked the combination with a glass of Menetou-Salon from the house of Clement Chatenoy. A remarkable Sauvignon with citrus and passion fruit, freshness and an exceptional length in the mouth. The wine has flavours and complexity very similar to the sauce and to the asparagus, making it a harmonious pairing of food and wine.

What You Need

  • Two Eggs
  • Dijon Mustard (1 tea spoon)
  • (White Wine) Vinegar (1 small tablespoon)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Pepper
  • Chives
  • Cornichon
  • Capers (in brine)
  • Asparagus

What You Do

Start by boiling the eggs, making sure the yolk is set but not too much. Depending on the size add them to boiling water and leave them in the simmering water for 7-9 minutes. We steamed them for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Once cold, peel the eggs, separate the white from the yolk. Cut the white in very small bits and store. Crush the two yolks using a fork. Make sure it becomes a paste-like substance. Add the mustard, stir, add the vinegar and stir well. Continue stirring (spoon preferred) and slowly add the olive oil, as if making a mayonnaise. Which is basically what you’re doing anyway! Main difference is that cooked yolk is less powerful when it comes to emulsifying. So the amount of olive oil you can add is (more) limited.
Once you’ve added the olive oil, add a bit of lemon juice, taste and decide if more mustard, vinegar, pepper or lemon is needed.
Now add the chopped egg white, the finely chopped chives, the drained and chopped capers and the thinly sliced cornichon.
The sauce should be ‘stable’ so feel free to store in the refrigerator.
Steam or cook the white or green asparagus and enjoy!

 

 

 

White Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs and Shrimps

Salmon

For some reason smoked salmon and white asparagus are seen as a match made in heaven. Some even refer to this combination as being ‘classic’ or ‘Flemish’. The combination is complemented with dill, sauce Gribiche, parsley, tarragon or even sugar.

Smoked salmon can either be hot-smoked or cold-smoked, but in both cases it must be eaten cold or at room temperature. When warmed (for instance by wrapping it around hot asparagus) you get this iffy, fatty flavour and a palate that can’t be hidden by lots of dill or tarragon. The warmth turns the fat of the salmon (especially the cold-smoked salmon) into something nasty with train oil taste. We could imagine poached salmon with warm asparagus or a salad of smoked salmon with cold white asparagus. But honestly, close your eyes, smell and taste. Match made in heaven? Really?

White asparagus and eggs, that’s a match made in heaven. For instance à la Flamande (with boiled egg, clarified butter, parsley and optional ham) or with scrambled eggs, chives and shrimps.

Shrimps?

Indeed, with small excellent shrimps, preferably freshly peeled; not used as an ingredient but as an element of flavour. The first time we had this combination we were surprised by the role of the shrimps. The salty, intense taste in balance with the very rich eggs and the sweet-bitter asparagus is a very clever idea. The chives in the scrambled eggs lift the dish to a higher level.
Unfortunately we don’t know who created it, so we offer the recipe with a caveat.

Scrambled eggs, it seems obvious and simple, but actually we are looking for a version that is more like a sauce. Gordon Ramsey’s instructive and hilarious movie shows you how to make scrambled eggs, so no need for us to explain. You need to stop a bit earlier, given it needs to have a sauce-like consistency.

Wine Pairing

We decided to drink a glass of Rivaner from the house Gales in Luxembourg. The aroma made us think of grapefruit, ripe melon and apple. The taste is elegant with a touch of sweetness, acidity and minerality. Ideal with our dish! The sweetness with the asparagus, the acidity in combination with the scrambled eggs and chives, the minerality with the shrimps. And the taste is surprisingly long lasting, which is perfect with such a rich dish.

What You Need

  • 6 White Asparagus
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter
  • Chives
  • Crème Fraiche
  • White Pepper
  • A Few Small (unpeeled) Shrimps

What You Do

Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes or so. They should have a bite. Prepare scrambled eggs à la Ramsay. Serve the asparagus with the scrambled eggs and just a few shrimps. Done!

 

The Art of Sauces: Kimizu

Yamazato

A few years ago we enjoyed an excellent Kaiseki dinner at Yamazato in Amsterdam. The menu featured many wonderful dishes, one of them being Kimizu-Ae: a combination of white asparagus and Kimizu. We were immediately intrigued because Kimizu is a rich and light sauce. It comes with a velvety feeling, a natural note of sweetness, a bright yellow colour and perfect acidity. So yes, the next day we prepared our own Kimizu.

Kimizu brings together two ingredients: egg yolk and rice vinegar. You could add some mirin (or sugar) and a pinch of salt. Within two minutes you will have created a beautiful, golden sauce; one that combines very well with fish and asparagus.
Kimizu does not contain butter (the egg yolk being the only source of fat) so Kimizu, although it seems similar to Hollandaise, is lighter, easier to digest and fresher.

Many recipes include starch, probably because the cook has trouble making a warm, emulgated sauce. Our advice: never use starch or beurre manié. The consistency is an essential element of the sauce and must be the result of the combination of egg, liquid and warmth. Same for a sabayon.

Using a microwave oven to make Kimizu is a great idea (see our recipe for Hollandaise), although it does require more whipping and more attention compared to making Hollandaise.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Kimizu with a glass of Sancerre, 2017, Domaine Merlin Cherrier. This classic wine reflects the chalky terroir of Sancerre beautifully. The combination of Sauvignon Blanc (citrus, minerals) and Kimizu (touch of sweetness, present but not overpowering acidity) works really well. A wine of true class and complexity with a long finish.

Now embrace your microwave and start using if for making Kimizu.

What You Need

  • Two Egg Yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • Teaspoon of Mirin or a Teaspoon of White Sugar (optional)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 6 Asparagus

What You Do

Whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk well. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking process, move to steps of 5 seconds on 30% power. Whisk, whisk again and feel free to find your own way. When the Kimizu is ready, take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a water bath.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 25 or 30 minutes; they should be well done for this dish). Serve the asparagus with a generous helping of Kimizu.

White Asparagus with Kimizu © cadwu
White Asparagus with Kimizu © cadwu

 

White Asparagus with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Morels

Ramson, Wild Garlic, Daslook, Bear Leek, Ail des Ours, Bärlauch

So many names for this great plant: Allium ursinum is one of the highlights of spring. Powerful, pure and tasty. Some say you should only eat the leaves before the plant starts to bloom. But then you can’t combine the leaves and the tasty white flowers in your dish, so we suggest ignoring that idea. The flowers are (if you’re lucky) just a touch sweet because of the nectar. It can be harvested from the wild, but some garden centers also sell ramson.
The taste is a combination of onion and garlic, but much greener, longer lasting and with a touch of bitterness at the end. You can turn the leaves into a strong pesto, but better use it as herb with for instance potatoes or gnocchi. See our recipe for Farfalle with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Parmesan Cheese.

Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler included two recipes in their classic book Mushrooms (published by Kyle Books and still available via for instance Amazon and other channels). One is a combination of Cod, Trompette des Morts (Black Trumpet) and Ramson. The other one is an intriguing combination of white Asparagus, Morels and Ramson.

Wine pairing

We suggest a full-bodied white wine with a fine acidity. For instance Herdade São Miguel, Colheita Seleccionada. The wine comes with distinctive minerals, along with excellent harmony and a long and well-balanced finish. It works well with the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus; the gently onion and garlic taste of the ramson and the pancake-like taste of the morels.

What You Need

  • 6 White Asparagus
  • Morels (but even dried porcini will work)
  • Ramson
  • Chicken Stock
  • Crème Fraîche
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Shallot
  • Mushrooms by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler

 

Oden

A Traditional Japanese Dish

If we say ‘Japanese food’, you will probably think ‘sushi’, ‘sashimi’, ‘yakitori’, perhaps ‘udon’. But Oden? Probably not. Such a shame because Oden is a really wonderful dish. Oden for lunch or as a course in a typical Japanese menu: tasty, light and full of surprises. Oden is a stew that requires a bit more work than you would expect and of course time. It also requires some shopping, given some of the ingredients are not easy to find.
We are not from Japan so we humbly present our version of this (wintery) classic. We hope it inspires you to cook Oden and enjoy it as much as we did.

Wine and Sake pairing

We preferred a glass of Chardonnay with the Oden during our dinner; others preferred a glass of cold sake. The stew is rich in flavours, umami of course, but not spicy, so we would not suggest a Gewurztraminer of a Sauvignon Blanc. A Chardonnay (with a touch of oak perhaps) will be a good choice.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 20 grams of Dashi Kombu (Rishiri Kombu)
    • 25 grams of Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes)
  • For the Stew
    • One Daikon
    • Chikuwa Fish Cakes
    • One Pack Konnyaku
    • One Pack of Gobo Maki Burdockroot Fish Cakes
    • 1 sheet of Hayani Kombu
    • 2 boiled eggs
    • Abura Age Fried Tofu
    • Mochi (Sticky Rice Cake)
    • Soy Sauce (preferably one with less salt)
    • Mirin
  • Karashi

What You Do

Start by making one litre of dashi. This seems simple but requires precision. Clean the kombu with a wet cloth and put into one litre of cold water. Gently raise the temperature to 80° Celsius or 176° Fahrenheit. Remove and discard the kombu. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the katsuobushi, bring to a boil and immediately set heat to zero. Wait 5 minutes or so. The katsuobushi will sink to the bottom of the pan. Now very gently pass the liquid through a wet towel. Do not squeeze, just give it time. The result will be a great, clean dashi. Cool and set aside.
Next step is to peel the daikon and slice it (2 centimeters is best). Now use a sharp knife to plane of the edge of the daikon. This improves the presentation and it is supposed to stop the daikon from falling apart. Cook the daikon for one hour in water. Drain and set aside.
Step three is to cut the konnyaku in triangles and cook these in water for 15 minutes. Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant and is specific for the Japanese cuisine.
Step four is to cook the sheet of Hayani Kombu for 5 minutes. This is young kombu and edible, different for the one you used when preparing dashi. Let cool a bit, slice and knot ribbons. Not sure why, but is looks great when you serve it.
Now it’s time to add the dashi to the pan (should be a clay pot, but we stick to our Le Creuset), add one tablespoon of mirin, one (or two, depending on your taste) of soy sauce, add the daikon, the konnyaku and the fish cakes.
We served our oden as a course during dinner, so we limited the number of ingredients. If served for lunch add boiled eggs, fried tofu and mochi. The last two ingredients have to be combined by putting the mochi into the tofu.
Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours. Best is, as always, to serve it the next day.
Serve with some karashi (Japanese mustard, which is different from wasabi by the way).

Oden © cadwu
Oden © cadwu

Asparagus with Hollandaise

A Three Course Meal in One Thousand seconds

Many years ago Belgium television broadcasted a program called Duizend Seconden. In this show Herwig Van Hove, Chef and professor in chemistry) would create a three-course meal in 1000 seconds (or less). The show was hosted by Felice (Dré Steemans) who also assisted the Chef when necessary. During the show Herwig van Hove would not only show how things had to be done, but he would also explain why. He came up with the great yet simple idea to create Hollandaise using a microwave.

We all know that sauces like Hollandaise, Béarnaise and many more rely on raising the temperature in a controlled and slow way. That’s why we learn to use a bowl, a pan with gently simmering water, carefully avoiding direct contact between the bowl and the water, whisk, and whisk some more. Some add the butter gradually; others start with the complete mixture. Some add mustard (which is always a great way of creating smoothness and enhancing consistency) and others add corn starch (strictly forbidden). Others dash of to the supermarket and buy some hideous powder (you wouldn’t do that of course).
Back to Herwig van Hove: the crucial part is to add warmth to the mixture in a controlled and slow way. So why not use a microwave? It gives you all the control you need for a perfect Hollandaise.
We would love to add a link to YouTube, but alas, none of their many shows is on the channel.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Hollandaise with a glass of Petit Sois, 2015, (produced by Bodegas Costers del Sio, Spain) which is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat. The Viognier brings a touch of freshness to the dish, which works well with the lemon in the Hollandaise. Combining white asparagus with Muscat is a classic. The Chardonnay is a bridge to the buttery aspect of the sauce. So the wine in your glass has multiple links to what’s on your plate, which makes it a truly wonderful dish.

What You Need

  • One Egg Yolk
  • 50 grams of Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Water
  • ½ tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • White Pepper
  • 4 Asparagus

What You Do

Melt the butter in the microwave on low power (10-30% of the power of your microwave, depending on the specifics of your oven). Make sure the butter is luke warm. Now whisk the yolk a bit, add the water and the lemon juice and whisk some more. Add this mixture to the butter and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking move to steps of 5 seconds on 10% power. Whisk, play and feel free to find your own way (it also depends on the amount of water in the butter, the temperature of the egg et cetera). When the Hollandaise is ready take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a bath of cold water.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 25 or 30 minutes; they should be well done for this dish). Serve the asparagus with just a bit of white pepper and a generous helping of Hollandaise.

 

Veal Rib Eye with Morels

Morels or Not?

In January 2019 one person died and over 30 people became ill after having eaten at Riff, the one Michelin star restaurant in Valencia. Media were quick in their analysis and decided that it was caused by the morels in one of the dishes. Today (April 4th) it’s not yet clear what caused the catastrophe.

Most sources mention that Morels contain some kind of toxin, one that can be destroyed by heating the morels. So lesson one with morels is not to eat them raw; they must be sautéed for a few minutes. Luckily the taste improves when sautéing them a bit longer, let’s say 10 minutes, so the toxin should be gone by then. However… some people report an upset stomach after having eaten morels and drinking alcohol. If you’re not used to eating morels, it could be wise to eat just a few and see how you react.

Look-A-Likes

A clear risk with morels is the fact that some other mushrooms are true look-a-likes. For example the highly toxic early morel or wrinkled thimble-cap and other ‘false’ morels. So picking them yourself is not a good idea unless you are an experienced morel-hunter. If you buy them (like we do), then buy them fresh or dried from a reliable source.

China

Some media mentioned that the morels used at Riff were brought in from China. Is that a problem? Yes from a sustainability point of view and No from a morel point of view. Morels are found in abundance in North America, Australia, China, Poland, France, India, Pakistan and many other countries, so why distrust them when they originate from China?

Back to Riff

Our humble view is that morels are in the mushroom top three together with Cèpes and Truffle. We are perfectly happy to eat them, for instance combined with Veal. And we look forward to having dinner at Riff when we are in Valencia later this year.

Wine Pairing

We prefer a full-bodied red wine, for instance a Nero d’Avola. We enjoyed a glass of Vanitá Nero d’Avola Organico Terre Siciliane I.G.T. 2016. It goes very well with the rich flavours of the veal and the morels. The wine comes with raspberries, red fruits and just a touch of vanilla. It has medium sweetness and a hint of herbs and spices, almost cinnamon. A long aftertaste and light tannins.

What You Need

  • Rib Eye of Veal
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Morels
  • Veal stock
  • Spinach

What You Do

Fry the Rib Eye in a heavy iron skillet for a few minutes until (very) pink. Wrap in aluminium foil and allow to rest. Reduce the heat and if necessary add some extra butter to the pan. Add the cleaned and halved morels and sauté gently. Add some veal stock and juices from the rib eye. In a small pan heat some olive oil, add the dry spinach and stir constantly. Serve the rib eye with the sauce, the morels and the spinach. Spring on your plate!