Why is white asparagus white? White asparagus undergoes the process of etiolation, – when plants are grown in either partial or complete absence of light. Specifically, dirt is mounded around the emerging asparagus stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalks.
The raw asparagus will keep up to seven days if you store it in the refrigerator, completely wrapped in a lightly moist paper towel to retain moisture and to avoid light.
For the Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive
- kosher salt & ground white pepper, to taste
For the Asparagus & Poached Egg
- 2 pounds white asparagus, ends trimmed and stalk peeled
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 4 large eggs chopped fresh parsley leaves, to taste
- shaved sheep’s milk cheese, to taste
- sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
To Prepare the Mustard Vinaigrette: In a blender combine shallot, vinegar and mustard; purée until smooth. With motor running, slowly add remaining olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To Prepare the Asparagus: Fill a large stainless steel pot with water and salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Put the asparagus into a steamer basket and place basket in the boiling water. Blanch until asparagus are just cooked, about 4 to 5 minutes depending on their size. Remove the basket with the asparagus and place in ice water to stop the cooking.
When asparagus are cold, drain and set aside. Reserve simmering water for the poached egg.
To Prepare the Poached Egg: Add the vinegar to the reserved water and bring to a simmer. One at a time, break each egg onto a saucer or into small cups or bowls. Slip eggs carefully into simmering water. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on firmness desired. Lift each egg from the water with a slotted spoon, drain completely and gently pat dry.
To Serve: Place a warm poached egg on top of asparagus. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, shaved cheese, salt and pepper.
Advance Preparation: The asparagus may be blanched and stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Substitutions and Options: You can substitute green asparagus for the white. White asparagus has a slightly milder flavor and can be a bit more tender than green asparagus. As with all agricultural products, variations in taste exist depending on the terroir – where the food was grown or produced, the climate, soil conditions, etc…
You can leave out the asparagus altogether and serve the poached egg and mustard dressing over slightly bitter greens such as frisée, mizuna or arugula.
Beverage Notes: Asparagus usually is difficult if not impossible match with wine. Fiona Beckett, a UK food and wine writer over at Matching Food and Wine, has come up with an few intriguing matches. Her suggestions, “a light lager brewed with champagne yeast” or if you have to have wine, “crisp, dry unoaked whites with good acidity.”
Recommended: Fiona recommends Kasteel Cru a lager, brewed in Alsace using spring water, champagne yeast and hallertau hops. An interesting US choice is Chicago’s own Goose Island Brewery’s Sophia, a Belgium-style ale fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrel. Makes 4 appetizer servings.