Poached White Asparagus

There’s a big difference between green and white asparagus. Many people are only familiar with the green variety – unless you are living in Germany, France, Austria or Switzerland, where the white variety is much more appreciated.

Sometimes white asparagus will have purple tips. This is common for French versions. They believe white asparagus should be uncovered for one day before harvesting, which will activate the chlorophyll process and begin to turn the tips a purple color. The tips are a bit more bitter than purely white varieties, but the French just adore these asparagus that have been kissed by the sun!

Preparing and cooking white asparagus is different than working with green asparagus. White asparagus should be peeled from head to toe…with a heavy shaving along the cut end that can be woody. The white spears are normally cooked whole – often tied together in groups of 5 or 7 spears. They are lightly poached for about 20 minutes in salted water with plenty of acid to help preserve the brilliant white color.

White asparagus also like to act as the star on the plate. It is much more common to serve the spears whole – perhaps accompanied by some kind of rich fatty sauce that will balance the acidity from the poaching liquid and the slight bitter notes. They are best when just slightly warmed to a temperature creeping above room temperature.

This recipe is based on what I learned during my years cooking in a high-end Zürich restaurant!

Yield: makes about 4-6 servings

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