How to Cook White Asparagus
Spring, or more accurately May and June, is white asparagus season throughout Europe. I’m from Switzerland, but have been living abroad for 20+ years and I truly like asparagus sautéed or grilled, in salads or as a vegetables. However, the tender white asparagus are still my most favorite.
During my apprenticeship, it was our job to peel up to 40 kg of white asparagus per day during the peak season. We had gotten pretty good at it and had a little annual competition of who could peel a crate of white asparagus the fastest and cleanest.
This is what’s so important with white asparagus, the peeling must be impeccable as the skin can not be eaten and stays tough and the cooking has to be thorough as they must be tender to develop their full taste. White asparagus and asparagus in general, are very healthy as well. They contain no fat or cholesterol, have very low sodium content, and are a good source of fiber and potassium. Asparagus are beneficial to bladder and kidney functions.
1. Buying Tips for White Asparagus
A few quality guidelines need to be adhered to ensure you get a fresh and good quality produce; the stem needs to be firm and plump the cut at the bottom should not be dried out. The skin should be silky white. The tip needs to be dry, firm and intact.
If you need to store the white asparagus for a few days in the refrigerator, it is best to wrap the asparagus in a damp cloth.
3. Peeling White Asparagus
White asparagus is very brittle and breaks easily. It is best to lay them on an elevated flat surface (a chafing dish insert or the back of a sautee pan) small enough that the tip of the asparagus sticks out over the edge.
Peel the asparagus from right below the tip along the whole stem in long equal ribbons. This needs to be done very diligently, ensuring that all the skin is peeled off, as pieces of leftover skin will be tough, stringy and inedible after cooking.
Tying the asparagus together in bundles will help to ensure that they do not break during the cooking process and that way, they can be portioned by weight and bundled accordingly. Level the tips on top of your bundle and hold all the asparagus to be bundled in one hand with the butcher string being wedged under your index finger.
With the other hand, hold the butcher string and tightly wrap it 3 times around the one end (approximately 6 cm/2inch from the top/bottom) then cross the length and do the same at the other end. Cross back again and secure the bundle by tying a knot with is secured under the end that is secured under your index finger
5. How to Cook White Asparagus
Begin by bringing all the ingredients to a boil, excluding the asparagus bundles. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus bundles, bring the water back to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
The cooking time for white asparagus varies depending on the thickness of the stems, typically ranging from 12 to 19 minutes. White asparagus should be cooked until they become tender and should not be left al dente. Undercooked asparagus can be stringy and unpleasant to eat.
During the cooking process, cover the asparagus with a white kitchen towel. This step ensures that the asparagus are evenly cooked, even though they are floating on the surface of the water.
Once cooked, and the white asparagus are soft, remove them from the cooking liquid gently and place on a large tray. Cool down the stock over ice or in a blast chiller and store them in the cool cooking liquid covered with a moist towel.
7. White asparagus recipes suggestions
- Check out our white asparagus with seared scallops recipe.
- White asparagus can be served chilled as part of a salad, with herb vinaigrette, with Parma ham or air dried meats. Click here for our Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Reduced Balsamic recipe. (can be cooked with white asparagus as well).
- To serve the asparagus warm, saute them gently in little butter and heat them through by adding a little of the original cooking liquid. Click here for our Truffle Marinated Asparagus.
- They are excellent with hollandaise, grilled seafood or roasted veal. Check out our peppered tuna salad with grilled asparagus recipe or char grilled asparagus with roasted almonds.
How to Cook White Asparagus
- Butcher’s string
- vegetable peeler
- large pot for cooking
- kitchen tray to peel asparagus
- white asparagus fresh
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 piece lemon sliced
- There are asparagus steamers available, but if you do not have one, please ensure that your cooking pot is large enough that asparagus bundles have enough space to “swim” loosely.
- Bring all ingredients except the asparagus bundles to boil. Add the asparagus bundles, bring the water back to boil and lower the heat to a simmer.
- White asparagus will need to cook for 12 -19 minutes depending on the thickness of the stems. White asparagus need to be cooked soft and should not be al dente. Under cooked asparagus they will be stringy and unpleasant to eat.
- Cover the asparagus with a white kitchen towel during the cooking process. This will ensure that the asparagus are equally cooked even though they are swimming on the surface.