Asparagus with scrambled eggs and chives
Asparagus is a special kind of vegetable. The white stem is due to the plant being grown in a mould of sandy earth from which only the tips, flowers, may emerge and they are dug up before any colouration. Green asparagus grow in the open and that makes them normally green.
In the Netherlands, asparagus are called “white gold” and people eat a lot of them as they are widely available in supermarkets, even outside the seasons when they are flown in from afar.
As with all vegetables, the freshness and the quality make the taste. Try to obtain locally grown asparagus – easy for me to say with parents and in-laws living in the two Dutch asparagus regions of Brabant and Limburg – of a thumb’s size thickness. Older asparagus turn woody, fast-grown industrial asparagus is weak and has not much taste, smaller asparagus could be used for stir fries or soups.
Here in France, asparagus are grown in Les Landes, the Loire valley and in the Aube, among other regions. We recently had a big bunch of Aube asparagus, white with a slight purple tint.
It is important to peel the asparagus by taking a very thin fibrous layer off the stem. If you peel a thicker slice then you loose in asparagus. You should not peel them long before use. I cook them in salted water. Some people add flour, vinegar and/or lemon to the water to keep the asparagus white.
I always prefer taste over colour and tend to keep good asparagus as natural as possible.
They can be used to accompany meat or fish, or you can eat them as a standalone dish.
In the Netherlands, my mother would roll the asparagus in slices of cooked ham and serve with a cheese sauce with nutmeg.
In France, the Mornay sauce (a Béchamel sauce of butter and flour with added grated cheese and an egg yoke) is often presented or a Hollandaise sauce of butter and lemon. I am not a great fan of sauces, because they are fattening and ‘hijack’ the taste from a main ingredient.
I cook the asparagus standing upright in a special pan. This is because the stems need longer time to cook than the heads. You do not need to fill the entire pan with water, up to two-thirds will do. The more water you use, the longer it will take for the water to boil but the quicker will the asparagus cook.
It takes about 10 minutes for an asparagus to be ready but it depends on many variables such as the size and toughness of the asparagus and the amount of water and the temperature. Prick a knife into the underside of an asparagus to test whether they are ready.
Some people keep the bunch tied together in the water, others do not. With a binder the bunch can be taken out of the pan easier, but you risk damaging the asparagus. The same applies to taking the special colander out of the pan and then taking out the asparagus; you may break the heads.
Best is to carefully pick them out one by one, or use a flat spoon or a piece of paper to get the asparagus without damage from the colander.
Asparagus is from the same family as onion and garlic and contains vitamins A, B9 and PP as well as phosphor and manganese. It also contains a special acid that gives a special scent to your urine the following morning….
It helps to drain the body of impurities, it is a diuretic, slightly laxative and, apparently, enhances the production of mother milk.
A friend of mine said he did not like asparagus because he had been forced to eat the tinned variety in his youth. There is no comparison between asparagus from tins or glassware – sometimes used in salads or hors d’œuvres – and the fresh original variety.
In Berlin, we once had very good local asparagus as part of a meal that included Sylt oysters in the Gendarmerie restaurant. That was in the week it opened in 2008 or 2009, I do not see it on the current menu. They now use Gillardeau oysters from France. Those are good, but best eaten near the Atlantic coast, not the North Sea…And I would normally not make a combination of asparagus and oyster.
- 1 kilo of fresh white asparagus
- 3 eggs
- some chives
- 100 grammes of butter
- Put water in a special asparagus cooker or pasta pan (or any other large pan) and bring to the boil. Add salt.
- Clean the asparagus – cut off the hard bottom edge and remove the thin peel along the stem. Be careful to keep the heads.
- Put the asparagus upright in the colander in the pan (or lay them in a large pan) and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, testing from time to time for tenderness. I like asparagus with a bit of bite, not mushy soft vegetables.
- Beat three eggs in a bowl, add salt and some pepper.
- Wash and cut some chives.
- When the asparagus is ready, take it from the pan and let it cool down a bit before carefully disposing on a platter, preferably with all the heads on and in the same direction.
- Melt the butter in a pan and add the eggs. Whisk regularly but not continuously – the egg has to set slightly at the bottom from time to time between whisking/beating in order to get the scrambled chunks.
- When it starts to become solid, remove from the heat source and continue to turn with a whisk or spoon before pouring over the asparagus.
- Sprinkle pepper and chives.