This is a “nothing” dish but we enjoyed it as a drinking snack. The seasonality of asparagus has been somewhat lost since Peruvian asparagus is readily available in the United States in winter*. Coming from Hokkaido where fresh asparagus indicates the beginning of late spring moving into summer, I miss the anticipation and excitement inherent in the seasonality of the dish. But the fact we can enjoy fresh asparagus all year long provides some compensation. Although green asparagus are very popular, white asparagus is not as widely appreciated. When I was a kid white asparagus only came canned which is rather awful compared to fresh. I have posted about white asparagus before but I made a slightly different dressing for it this time.
*factoid: Believe it or not asparagus have been an “integral” part of the U.S. war on drugs. Under various free trade agreements with Andean countries particularly Peru, asparagus were imported to the United States duty free or with reduced tariff. It was thought this would provide incentives to produce asparagus rather than drugs. (I privately suspect they produce both now). Prior to these Agreements, as was the case in Hokkaido, asparagus were only available in the United States in late spring early summer. Peruvian asparagus are also produced in Peru in the spring. Since the production occurs south of the equator, however, Peruvian spring/summer is our fall/winter. As a result asparagus are available in the U.S. all year round: from the United States in spring and summer and Peru south of the equator in fall and winter.
I quickly blanched the green asparagus tips (for a few minutes) and then cooled them (by spreading them on a paper towel in a cool place) and served with sesame dressing (Thicker bottom stalks were made into asparagus soup). The sesame dressing is a mixture of white sesame paste, 1 tbs, sugar 1/2 tsp, soy sauce 1-2 tbs and rice vinegar 1/2 tsp).
The while asparagus can be a bit tricky to cook. First, I removed the bottom of the stalk by snapping it off by bending (where ever it snaps, that is the right spot). I then used a vegetable peeler (Europeans have a special white asparagus peeler) and removed the outer fibrous layer, preserving all the peels. The white asparagus tends to be very brittle and often breaks when it is peeled. The best way to prevent this is to use a sharp peeler and also place the asparagus on a flat surface such as a cutting board and rolling it as you peel. I placed all the peels and root ends as well as peeled white asparagus in a large frying pan with enough water to cover everything (I used filtered water from our home reverse osmosis device). I did not add salt (since I would be reducing the liquid). I cooked it on low flame for 1 hour (could be less depending on how well you peel and how fibrous the outer skin of the asparagus). After taking out the asparagus, I kept simmering the scraps and peels until the liquid was 1/3 of the original amount (the resulting liquid is full of white asparagus flavor). After staining through a fine meshed sieve, I kept this reduced broth in a sealable container for later use.
The first night, I served the asparagus warm. I heated the cooked spears in a small amount of the asparagus broth. After they were heated through I removed them from the pan and set them aside. I then finished the sauce by adding butter, cream, and seasoning it with salt and white pepper. I then poured the sauce over the asparagus. This is very good for warm white asparagus.
The second time I served the asparagus (picture above), I used the broth to loosen mayonnaise to make a sauce for cold white asparagus. Adding, the concentrated white asparagus both really makes a difference. Although this was not early summer, we still enjoyed the asparagus.