You will typically find two kinds of asparagus in the store: white, also referred to as blanched and green.
White asparagus comes from the same variety of plant as green, but the shoots are kept from being exposed to light. As the asparagus shoot grows earth is banked up, covering the plant deeply. Since the shoots are not exposed to sunlight they do not turn green. The asparagus is harvested when the tip peeks through the ground. White asparagus is milder in flavor than the green.
Green asparagus should be green for the entire length of the stalk. The stalk should be brittle and will snap when bent. If the asparagus is pliable it is probably wilted.
Since the asparagus grows in sandy soil, the tips and scales are sometimes filled with sand. Wash the stalks in warm water and gently brush the tips with a soft vegetable brush.
The tough base of the asparagus will snap off. These ends are good for use in soups and peeled and chopped for use in other vegetable dishes.
The tougher ends of the asparagus need more cooking than the tender tips. For this reason a special pot can be used. The asparagus is stood in boiling water so that the tougher stalks are in the water and the tips steam. In this way the whole stalk will cook evenly.
If you do not have such a pot, you can peel the tougher outer layer off of the stalks and steam them. Many people will peel the stalks in either case.
The asparagus is done when the stalks are tender. Serve them either hot with a lemon butter or hollandaise sauce, or cold with a vinaigrette dressing.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
- 1 bunch of green asparagus
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cut heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the asparagus tips and stalks separately in just enough water to cover. Drain the tips and set them aside. Save the cooking water. When the stalks are soft, process them in the food processor with some of the cooking water to a fine pulp.
Scald 2 cups of milk. Make a roux by gently cooking 2 tablespoons of flour in 2 tablespoons of flour, just until the flour is heated and the lumps are stirred out. Add the scalded milk, stirring until the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps. Add the water in which the asparagus was cooked and the asparagus pulp. Cook a few minutes to cook the flour and thicken the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cream and the asparagus tips. Reheat, but do not boil.
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