Tuesday, June 3, 2008


The Germans go pretty crazy over white asparagus when it is in season.

Yes, it is beautiful and delicious, and in season for only a short period, but here asparagus season is like a holiday. Asparagus isn't a side dish, it is the main event. Whole meals are planned around it. In the bookstores there are tables full of cookbooks devoted exclusively to asparagus recipes, sauces, and sides. Grocery stores have displays with hollandaise sauce mixes, common side dishes, recommended wines, and special spice blends. I even saw a bag of potatoes specially labeled "Asparagus Potatoes" because they were the perfect kind to serve with asparagus. Department stores and cookware stores have tables of asparagus serving platters, tongs, steamers, and other asparagus-specific equipment. In one grocery store, along with a loudspeaker announcement about the weekly specials there was a little jingle about "Unsere schöne Spargelzeit".

What I'm saying is, they take it pretty seriously.

Some friends and I decided to get together and cook a bunch of white asparagus with traditional accompaniments. One friend had previously stayed with a family in Offenburg and got recipes and asparagus-cooking-tips from his host mother. We decided on steamed white asparagus (steaming water seasoned with a little each of salt, sugar and vinegar) wrapped in crepes with hollandaise sauce, and a side of small boiled potatoes tossed with salt, pepper and lemon.

Separating eggs for the hollandaise sauce - my first time making it from scratch. Absolutely worth it.

A very tempting stack of crepes - we had a hard time keeping our hands off of these while getting everything else ready.

An assembled asparagus bundle - heavenly. I had never eaten white asparagus before, and it turns out it is very different from green asparagus. Delicate and almost buttery, and the tips practically melt in your mouth.

The spread - white wine, hollandaise sauce, potatoes, and the asparagus and crepes both covered to stay warm. We had to cook the asparagus in two batches, because we bought a lot. As it turns out, we overestimated our stomach capacity a little bit, and had leftovers. The leftover crepes were filled with strawberries for dessert, after a little break to let our stomachs catch up.

And two days later we pureed the leftover asparagus and potatoes into a creamy, delicious soup.

I initially found all of the fuss about asparagus season kind of funny, but now I am totally on board. Schöne Spargelzeit, indeed.

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