It’s a little early for asparagus here in Germany, though buds are blossoming and fair-weather birds have returned, but we’re getting imported white asparagus from Greece with purple hues at their tips. Once steamed, the fat white spears turn buttery soft and sweet and go so nicely with a heaping of rich and lemony hollandaise sauce (made super easy with an immersion blender), a sprinkling of herbs (I used chervil here, but chives work well too) and coils of sliced ham. A plateful of flavors to usher in a glorious asparagus season!
Makes 2 large plates as entrées or 4 smaller appetizers
(Hollandaise sauce method & recipe adapted from J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s “Foolproof 2-Minute Hollandaise” recipe on Serious Eats)
- 28 oz./800 g., or about 20 thick white asparagus spears
- 1 stick (112 g.) unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp. water (room temp)
- 3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (less than 1 whole lemon)
- pinch of salt
- more salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- large bunch of fresh chervil, finely chopped (or substitute: finely chopped chives, tarragon, or parsley)
- 4 slices ham (optional), rolled and chopped to bite-size pieces
- Wash the asparagus spears and, using a vegetable peeler, strip off the tough outer layers of of each stalk, from below the tips all the way to the bottom ends. Toward the bottom, strip off twice the outer layers, as they tend to be toughest there. Then bend the stalks toward the bottom to find the natural breaking point – and either snap the ends off or chop at that point with a knife and discard the bottom ends.
- Prepare a metal steamer basket inside a pot wide enough to hold it, and add enough water in the pot to reach almost but not all the way up to the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to a boil and add the peeled asparagus and cover. Steam until the spears are tender and a knife cuts easily through (this will depend on how large/thick the spears are, but roughly 15 minutes).
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pot, swirling and letting it foam but not burn. When completely melted and foam subsides, turn heat off and use a spoon to scoop up any solids that accumulated on the surface or sides and discard. Transfer the hot butter to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.
- In a tall sturdy cup that just fits your immersion blender (I used the one that came with my immersion blender), combine the egg yolk, water, 2 tsp. of the lemon, and a pinch of salt. Blend with the immersion blender (using the whipping/pureeing attachment) for a few seconds, then add a tiny bit of the hot butter and continue to blend until emulsified. In the tiniest stream possible, drizzle the hot butter in, while continuing to blend and emulsify. Note: Make sure to keep the blender just below the surface of the liquid so it does not spray hot butter out, and keep the cup tilted away from you (and anyone else) just in case it splatters.
- Taste the sauce and add more salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and more lemon to taste (I like mine lemony and use the whole 3 tsps.).
- Plate the steamed asparagus with a heaping of ham, hollandaise and herbs. Enjoy!
Note: You might also consider Eric Ripert’s wonderful shortcut recipe for hollandaise using a standing blender; just make sure your blender’s top opening is narrow enough that hot butter won’t splatter out. Mine splattered, and my blender blitzed it to a foamy consistency (I suspect it’s my quirky blender or me, not Ripert’s recipe to fault). I prefer the immersion blender method for its ease, just one egg yolk, a perfect thick consistency, and no mess (if you’re careful!).