Young Asparagus Plants Growing, Asparagus Officinalis
Young Asparagus Plants Growing, Asparagus Officinalis
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Alain Ducasse's Asparagus Three Ways



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"You needn't tell me that a man who doesn't love oysters and asparagus
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Close Up of Asparagus Tips
Close Up of Asparagus Tips
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 A Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Formerly in the Collection of Painter Max Liebermann
A Bunch of Asparagus, 1880,
Formerly in the Collection of Painter Max Liebermann
Giclee Print

Manet, Édouard
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A Shower of Springtime Flavors
By Alain Ducasse

The New York Times, April 10, 2002

This is the seventh of eight columns by Alain Ducasse...
 They are being written with Florence Fabricant.

"The arrival of wild asparagus, which has an incomparable flavor and an aroma that suggests young leeks, tells me that spring is here. In France its season is fleeting; in fact, it is already over. So from April to June, I use the cultivated
variety, which I love when the spears are big and fat, cooked to melting
tenderness, then showered with petals of Parmesan.
Asparagus has many dimensions, allowing the cook to offer several textures
and subtle shadings of flavor on the same plate. In my restaurant in Paris, I
spread raw and roasted spears on a bed of asparagus purée and use it as the
underpinning for breaded veal medallions sautéed Milanese style.
That same idea can make an excellent first course: just replace the veal with
a small asparagus custard, a classic preparation called a royale. It's a pretty
plate of food, as green as springtime, easily made and suitable for preparing
in advance.
Buy fresh green asparagus of medium thickness, peel off only the thinnest
layer, then cook about half the stalks until they are soft enough to purée.
The rest, after you have separated the tips from the stalks, will be divided
between cooked and raw. The asparagus purée is the basis for the custard,
which needs only eggs, salt and pepper. Didier Elena, my chef de cuisine
in New York, uses ceramic espresso cups to bake the custards so they can
be unmolded in a tiny dome shape, but any small ramekin will do.
Some purée is combined with minced raw asparagus. Cooked spears and
shavings of raw ones are placed all around the plate. As a garnish, we use
black truffle purée or a truffle vinaigrette, but a touch of good balsamic
vinegar will also do the trick. You could even put the whole thing in a soup
plate and surround it with an asparagus broth made by thinning some of
the purée with a very light chicken stock.
With this dish, pour white wine with good acidity. My sommelier, Pieter
Verheyde, likes the whites from southwestern France or a pinot blanc from
Italy or the North Fork of Long Island."


Asparagus Three Ways
(Raw, Cooked, Puréed)

Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 pounds asparagus, medium thickness
 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed black truffles or
1 tablespoon black olive paste or
1 tablespoon genuine balsamic vinegar
at least 50 years old.

1. Snap off ends of asparagus stalks where they break naturally. Discard ends. Peel asparagus. Select 16 of the most uniform and thickest spears and set aside. Cut remaining stalks in half, place in a saucepan of well-salted water and simmer until very tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, and purée in food processor or blender. You should have about 1 1/4 cups.
2. Heat oven to 250 degrees [F]. Lightly butter 4 small round ovenproof containers, preferably 3- to 4-ounce size. Porcelain ramekins or custard
cups, heatproof glass bowls or tiny nonstick muffin or dariole molds can
be used.
3. Combine 2/3 cup purée with egg and egg yolks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to buttered molds. Place molds in a baking dish, and
add simmering water to come halfway up sides of molds. Bake 45 minutes
or until custards are set and surface is fairly firm to the touch. Remove
from oven, leaving molds in water bath.
4. While custards bake, cut a 2-inch-long piece from the tip of each reserved asparagus stalk. Cut each tip piece in half lengthwise, place in a saucepan of salted water, bring to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, and set aside on absorbent paper.
5. Using a vegetable peeler, shave 4 or 5 ribbons lengthwise from remaining pieces of stalk, leaving center portion intact. Place ribbons in a bowl of ice water. Mince centers no larger than peppercorns. Fold minced asparagus
into remaining purée, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Beat vinegar and oil together but not enough to emulsify completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add truffles, olive paste or balsamic vinegar, and stir lightly to combine but not blend thoroughly. Vinaigrette should remain somewhat broken.
7. To serve, spoon asparagus purée with minced raw asparagus in a circle in center of each of 4 large salad plates. Unmold custards on top of purée. Surround each with 8 cooked halved asparagus tips, cut side down, like spokes of a wheel. Drain raw asparagus ribbons and pat dry. Scatter over cooked tips, and pose one that's nicely curled on each custard. Drizzle vinaigrette on plate around asparagus.
 Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company, used with permission

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