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

 

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.

 

Bay Boletes with Brussels Sprouts and Tenderloin

Bay Bolete

The Bay Bolete is a tasty, fairly common mushroom. Its cap is chestnut (bay) brown. They are easy to find under pines and other conifers in Europe and North America (but we’re not mushroom hunters) and unfortunately not so easy to find on the market. The main season for the Bay Bolete is late summer and autumn. Bay Boletes are rarely infested with maggots. They dry very well.
When comparing the taste of Bay Boletes and Cepes we think that Cepes have a more powerful and complex taste whereas Bay Boletes are nuttier.

We remember Brussels sprouts from our youth: over- cooked, greyish, soggy and oh-that-smell (it’s sulphur actually)! Once in a blue moon we take a trip down memory lane and cook them this way, but we prefer a more modern approach, for instance steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Nutmeg is a must by the way.

Wine

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full-bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast. A juicy wine with nice acidity and smooth tannins. Fresh and vigorous finish.

You could also go for a Malbec. Taste wise the mushrooms and the sprouts are very powerful, so you’re looking for a wine that will clearly support the beef and will also combine with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and the touch of bitterness of the sprouts.

Here is what you need

  • Boletes
    • 150 grams of Bay Boletes
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • One glove of Fresh Garlic
    • Parsley
  • Brussels Sprouts
    • 200 grams of Brussels Sprouts
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
  • 150 grams of excellent Beef (Tenderloin is best in this case)
  • Black Pepper

Let’s Start Cooking

We begin with the Brussels sprouts: clean them (don’t cut in half as so many do nowadays) and cook or steam them until they are nearly okay. Set aside and let cool. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and/or kitchen paper. Slice (not too thin). Heat a skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently over medium heat. In parallel warm a pan with some butter and add the sprouts. The idea is to coat them with butter and warm them, giving them just the cuisson you prefer. Heat a second skillet with olive oil and butter, fry the beef and let rest for 5 minutes or so in aluminum foil. Season the sprouts with some nutmeg. Back to the mushrooms: add chopped garlic to the pan. Wait a few minutes and then add chopped parsley. You could make a jus in the skillet you used for the beef. Serve on a hot plate with extra nutmeg and black pepper.

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.