Asparagus is the only vegetable in German cuisine that is considered noble enough to stand by itself without any meat. The white variety, which is in
When cooked on point, it has a buttery sweet aroma and a creamy rich texture, that makes it melt in your mouth. If you combine this delicacy with the crunchier and earthier green asparagus and cover it with a tangy-sweet and incredibly rich Maltaise sauce you’re in vegetarian food heaven.
Tips for working with fresh asparagus
The German asparagus season lasts from the middle of April until June 24th, Saint John’s Eve. Outside of these two and a half months, it is impossible to get your hands on fresh German grown asparagus. And to be honest, canned or frozen asparagus is not even a close substitute.
For delicate things, such as white asparagus, I am a big fan of keeping it simple and letting the natural aromas shine. Of course, you could roast it in the oven or use it in a curry and it would be beyond delicious. However, steamed asparagus has the power to shine on its own.
Before cooking the asparagus, you need to trim off the woody bottom end, about 1/2 to 1 inch depending on the thickness and freshness of your asparagus. White asparagus should also always be peeled as the outer layer is very stringy and unpleasant to eat. Green asparagus, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be peeled. Trimming off the bottom end is enough.
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To season asparagus, I recommend you
How long to cook your steamed asparagus
For the steaming time, I recommend 8-10 minutes. The green asparagus cooks a little faster, so if you like it on the firmer side, take it out 3-4 minutes before the white asparagus is cooked. The white asparagus should be tender throughout, without being mushy.
You don’t want the white asparagus to be too crunchy, as it’s most delicious with a buttery-smooth center. In case you don’t have a steam rack, you can also cook the asparagus in salted boiling water.
A lot of traditional German recipes recommend adding some sugar to the asparagus cooking water, however, with today’s asparagus not being that bitter anymore, this is unnecessary in my opinion.
In case you steamed the asparagus, season it afterward with a nice finishing salt such as Fleur de Sel or Maldon salt.
Noble vegetables deserve delicate sauces
From reading the title of this recipe, you might wonder what in the world Sauce Maltaise is. I think everyone knows that Sauce Hollandaise and asparagus are a pretty common pairing among all European cuisines.
And that’s basically what Sauce Maltaise is. It’s a Sauce Hollandaise that is finished with a bit of blood orange juice and zest. The fruity notes of the blood oranges pair perfectly with the mild sweetness of the white asparagus and the earthiness of the green asparagus.
In case you don’t have any access to blood oranges, you could also substitute regular oranges. In case you want to enjoy your asparagus with a plain Sauce Hollandaise, I recommend you to use raspberry vinegar instead of lemon juice as your acidic component. This will give you a similar fruitiness as if using blood orange juice.
Another very popular variation is the Sauce Mouselline, which is a basic Hollandaise that is enriched with whipped cream.
In the recipe instructions, I describe the traditional way of making Sauce Hollandaise by hand over a water bath. I still like making it the traditional way, as I feel that it gives me the best control over the consistency and seasoning of the final product.
You can, however, use an immersion blender to make Sauce Hollandaise. So, in case the traditional method seems too laborious or intimidating to you feel free to use the kitchen tools you have on hand.
In case you’re new to making Sauce Hollandaise and want to give the traditional method a try, I recommend the video I embedded below. It’s a detailed and well-made description of the process.
Don’t be scared of attempting to make Sauce Hollandaise at home, it’s not as hard as everyone makes it seem. In fact, it’s one of the simplest sauces that can be whipped up in minutes.
Steamed Asparagus with Sauce Maltaise (‘Spargel mit Sauce Maltaise’)
For the asparagus:
- 1 pound white asparagus
- 1 pound green asparagus
- Fleur de sel
For the sauce:
- 8 ounces unsalted European-style butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp water + more to taste
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice + more to taste
- 2 tbsp blood orange juice + more to taste
- a pinch of blood orange zest
Prepare the asparagus:
- Trim off the woody ends of the asparagus, about 1 inch from the bottom. Peel the white asparagus and leave the green asparagus unpeeled. In a steamer, steam the asparagus over high heat for about 10 minutes until tender. Feel free to adjust the steaming time to your preferred consistency.
Prepare the sauce:
- While the asparagus is steaming, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium-low heat. In another pot, heat plenty of water until lightly simmering, then turn off the heat. Put a metal or glass bowl on top of the hot water bath and add your egg yolks together with 3 tbsp water and 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice. Whisk the mixture on top of the water bath until it turns creamy and thickens slightly. Take the hot bowl off the water bath and begin slowly drizzling in your warm melted butter. If your sauce is about to break, whisk in 1 tablespoon of cold water and continue drizzling in more butter. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the blood orange juice and a pinch of blood orange zest. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, adjust the consistency of it by adding in more water or blood orange juice. If the sauce is too thin, incorporate more butter. Return the finished sauce on top of the water bath to keep it warm until your asparagus is ready.
- Once the asparagus is cooked, season it with Fleur de Sel to taste. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with the sauce.
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