It’s a vegetable with royal cachet: French “Sun King” Louis XIV was fond of it. It’s been called “white gold” and “edible ivory.” And yet, white asparagus is relatively unknown in America, save for expats from northwestern Europe who pine for its delicate taste at this time of year, and perhaps what it represents—the coming of spring.
Try white asparagus at the following NYC restaurants:
Chef Kurt’s Gutenbrunner makes white asparagus several ways, including a simple, delicious dish with nothing more than white asparagus and morels (another harbinger of spring) and tomato foam (maybe a hint of summer there, with a nice earthy acidity).
The ivory color makes a great canvas for other additions, as in the case of Gutenbrunner’s white asparagus with purple potatoes and coral-colored grapefruit, which he adds for a hint of acidity. “Food always needs to have a little bit of acid, it’s very playful. I like the balance between the sweetness and the acid,” he said.
When it comes to white asparagus, chef Aaron Bludorn goes for the French kind without hesitation. “Most French chefs I have met swear by French white asparagus,” he said. “I only serve white asparagus from Provence. I think the balance of acidity/sweetness/bitterness is the best in its class.”
The spears are cooked in simmering water with a touch of sugar to enhance the flavors and Bludorn likes to cook them so they are tender to the tooth—but not mushy. They are then tossed in olive oil, sherry vinegar, and sea salt, and served hot.
Bludorn also likes to add a dish with a creamy element—white asparagus with whole grain mustard dressing, a sunny side up quail egg, lomo ham, and wild arugula. To add acidity, he uses pickled pearl onions. It’s all served with toasted brioche for a satisfying crunch.
“When creating a dish around white asparagus, you cannot forget [it’s] the star. The other elements are only supporting actors and you cannot dress it up too much with anything too fancy. Remember the white asparagus have a short season and guests are looking to remember why they were so special the year before,” he said.
Gotham Bar and Grill
Chef Alfred Portale steams asparagus gently until tender and makes a sofrito mixture of baby rainbow carrots, spring onions, and housemade pancettta. “I top the asparagus with a sunny side up egg plated with an arugula pesto. The colors are stunning,” he said.
On chef Tim Meyers’s new brunch menu you can find white asparagus served with creamy shallot vinaigrette.
“Just like green asparagus, white asparagus gets a little too fibrous near the base (especially when farms let it grow really fat, as they do in Provence), so we trim that part off, and juice it along with the peeling of the outside of the stalk,” he said. To the juice he adds apple cider vinegar and uses it as a marinade for the already blanched asparagus stalks, along with some rosemary and brown butter. “Storing it in this marinade is a surefire way to ensure a juicy product that is well seasoned, but true to its own delicate flavor,” he said.
To chef Gabriel Kreuther, “White asparagus are the first blush of spring in the kitchen.” He prefers them from Hoerdt just north of Strasbourg, France. A favorite recipe is pairing it with a vinaigrette of pickled mustard seeds. At his restaurant, Gabriel Kreuther, he plans to make white asparagus with a smoked salmon coulis, consisting of smoked salmon, onions, shallots, tomato paste, vermouth, and white wine. It’s not currently on the menu but will be when asparagus prices become more reasonable.