Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ideas for Asparagus

It is still going strong, and friends are asking for ideas. Oh, the things you can do with asparagus! That's not to say that you shouldn't make a simple velouté or remove any woody parts and poach it delicately, then pluck the stalks up with your fingers one by one and nibble it plain. Any number of serving sauces and souped up mayonnaises which you have whisked up yourself with the various oils you love make wonderful accompaniments. It might be interesting to note that in France, white asparagus is the most common, so green asparagus is somewhat of a delicacy here. Due to the higher price it brings, green asparagus is beginning to get more space in the fields here. It sells like hotcakes, leaving the old fashioned noble plump white stalks to be gathered up by the likes of myself for consummation in bulk.

Shall we take a stroll around the country for a survey? Let's go! The dishes and pairings listed here are by geographic appearance only, and they may or may not be traditional to the regions. It depends on the chefs and where they've been, just so you know.

In restaurants in Alsace, we can see that like everywhere in France, fish and asparagus are paired quite readily. Atlantic sea bass or John Dory are common. Asparagus and morels are also presented together in a cup of puff pastry. They are scattering asparagus and veal sweetbreads over salad here.

Ride a wave the way down southwest to the Aquitaine, we see that fish is draped over an asparagus wheat 'risotto', and it is loved. Delicately spoon an asapragus velouté to your lips in emblem to your host country before popping local bite sized fried asparagus and mozerella as an appetizer. Pray to the god of the tides, and when the day is done, just dig in to tender wild mushrooms with morels tossed with local asparagus. Royally enjoy roasted scallops with smoked pumpkin and green asparagus to get your juices flowing. Follow with a formidable cod or Atlantic sea bass with asparagus and young broad beans (fevettes are getting bigger by the day, so act fast!), or that line fished whiting and asparagus in a local dish called the koskera. They're matching veal sweetbreads with green asparagus too, for the hard core purists.

Up into France profond in the Auvergne, Asparagus is making its appearance again with John Dory. In Bugundy, they're serving forth a cold asparagus cream, a novel venison fricassee served with asparagus, a match with pikeperch, and a pan toss with langoustines.

Brittany is prolific with creative uses of asparagus, although I'm not sure what to think about an asparagus and Aquitaine caviar 'milkshake' (hmmm. Those people who dance in circles have some crazy drinks up there!). Veal sweetbreads pain perdu with green asparagus, locally gathered scallops and green asparagus with beet juice alongside a mixed aromatic herb salad surpise and delight. Country cured bacon served with green asparagus sounds good, doesn't it? Catfish and asparagus with seaweed seasoned coulis, the classic combination of steamed Atlantic sea bass and asparagus, langoustine and asparagus risotto, more sea bass with sautéed fava beans, and cockle clams and asparagus served over polenta. One other adventurous creation is roasted langoustines with asparagus and coffee seasoned sauce.

In the region called the Centre, we have a crab, potato, and asparagus Chartreuse. The roasted turbot with a vegetable caviar (minced vegetables with a chef's choice of liaison) served with asparagus as its own attraction with chorizo seasoned butter. Seared foie gras with asparagus and hazelnut oil, a neat pikeperch and salmon terrine with asparagus, another use of crab with asparagus tips in salad. Panfried skate served with sweet potato purée and green asparagus is nourishing.

In the Champagne region, a slice of turbot with an asparagus risotto makes an appearance. Zoning in on the Franche Comte, a beef muzzle salad with balsamic and asparagus makes a nice marriage of in season and traditional. A creamy morel and green asparagus soup makes waves, or lake whitefish poached with chili peppers served with asparagus. Crayfish salad with asparagus, or a regional Luberon asparagus served with milk chantilly and diced smoked herring.

Just a few selections from the Ile-de-France and Paris, home of friend bloggers David Lebovitz and Clotilde Dusoulier. Imagine warm asparagus with soft boiled eggs and toast strips for dipping after a whirlwind day in the city. John Dory again walks hand in hand with asparagus. Atlantic sea bass served with green asparagus and an olive oil sauce with condiments, or you might find a smart city side of marinated cucumbers and asparagus to be served with a pepper crusted grilled rib eye, Parisian style. An asparagus and salmon flan might hit the spot in a Paris café. You might get frozen asparagus cream with a tomato granité as a palate cleanser. Sit down for puff pastry with asparagus, Bourbon vanilla marinated salmon served with asparagus purée, a white asparagus and morel mushroom fricassee, or large green asparagus with Parmesan, seasoned with truffles and a slow cooked black olive polenta accompaniment. Oh la la. Everything is possible here. How about a golden Bresse liver cake with Pouilly-Fuissé seasoned crayfish and Perthius asparagus tips, new onions, and Menton lemon paste? Of course the Parisians get their the best prime oysters and serve them with white Landais asparagus, the best of the best.

In the Languedoc-Roussilon, we see cod risotto with green asparagus. I don't have much more information from the region. In the Limousin, sea bass is served with raw and cooked asparagus, and I am ashamed to say I have nothing more to say about that region's use of it. Maybe local friends can chime in.

In the Lorraine, Bea's old home, the key words are fresh and tasty. We see a pretty little red mullet fillet broiled on one side and steamed over mushroom broth and asparagus. Turbot with green asparagus and grapefruit is served forth. A comforting creamy asparagus tip risotto, lake trout with asparagus and cured ham, the langoustine in a summer truffle crust with shellfish cappuccino and grated green asparagus, a snail and asparagus croustade, sautéed John Dory with a lemon confiture and asparagus, young pigeon terrine with duck foie gras accompanied by a little asparagus salad, and a simple pan tossed slice of veal sweetbread with asparagus tips.

Lets head to the Midi-Pyrenees, shall we? Kate Lives there! Dream of sweet weekends with green asparagus and frog legs presented in an emulsion of smoked bacon and olive oil, to start. It sounds divine, non? In the Haut Garonne, we're bowled over with the lobster tail with asparagus flanked with braised veal shank presented in its cooking jus. Hot plain asparagus comes out clean with an accompanying garlic sauce, an asparagus duo (green and white) floats in creamy soup alongside oyster brochettes. One can be pleasantly appeased with asparagus in vinaigrette with poached eggs in Gascony, and genuinely pleased with a fresh scallop and asparagus salad. Langoustines are paired with asparagus as well as pan tossed with veal sweetbreads. In the Tarn, a creamy asparagus soup with a poached egg is garnished with again, diced smoked herring! Speaking of smoked, lox makes an appearance with radishes and asparagus in an opening note in one restuarant. Not to forget a delicious pocket of curry seasoned crab and asparagus tucked into puff pastry in the town of Montauban. God, I love it down there.

N is for Nord-Pas-de-Calais. What's cooking on the asparagus front there? Again, line fished sea bass is paired with our lovable stalk, more than once in this region. A veal scallop is served with a novel salsify and asparagus combination, and crab and haddock are topped with creamed asparagus in a verrine.

In the Normandy region, proper and straight shooting. Our friends from Calvados like sea urchin in its shell with eggs and green asparagus, a tender rein into tradition. Sweet stalks of asparagus rolled in sole. A fingerfood fest ensues with roasted whole lobster with a side of asparagus, and correction in spades with a civilized asparagus feuilleté with a morel mushroom cream sauce. The pikeperch poached in red wine and served on a bed of asparagus sounds like an interesting way to present it, and a champagne flute with spider crab, leeks and asparagus all topped with a salad burnet emulsion is an entertaining course. Served with turbot and in terrine, asparagus makes its mark in Normandy. Delectable idea: lobster meat served in a jar, layered with slow cooked pork cheek and asparagus tips. Normandy likes verrines.

In the Pays-de-la-Loire, let's begin with a beef tenderloin with wild mushroom duxelles (minced and creamed) served with green asparagus. Tossed with langoustines or served with lobster medallions and a truffle oil vinaigrette, we're in heaven. A duckling fillet is served with green asparagus and Pancetta and the lot is drizzled with a pear seasoned reduction, hello fruit! Two points to the ladies! It sounds simple and delicious served aside roasted salmon with slow cooked onions and peppers, or with oven crisped crab and beets. The milk fed veal medallions with asparagus again strikes a note.

In Poitou-Charentes, asparagus makes a colorful presentation with the classic turbot, and it is simmered with shallots in wine to accompany drum fish. A smoked salmon and asparagus terrine makes an appearance as well.

In Provence and the Cotes d'Azur... Asparagus comes graced with shavings of chorizo, Mediterranean sea bass is again paired with asparagus and morel mushrooms, or purple asparagus comes to the table with a truffle infused glaze and a side of foie gras. Mediterranean sea bass again is a classic match served with leeks in truffled sauce, or we find a spicy pork tenderloin medallion served with crunchy asparagus fricassee featuring larch sprouts. Bask in the generous sun and be served a simple egg with asparagus cream, green asparagus cut into fans and served simply, or cooked slow and served a slice of foie gras and drizzled with aged balsamic jus. Enjoy it pan tossed with fresh morels and served with shavings of parmesan and a warm vinaigrette, in an asparagus Mikado with gratined speck, or served with a truffle mousseline. A simple poultry terrine with asparagus, mushroom macaroni stuffed with John Dory, asparagus and morels, or green asparagus tips in salad, served with a white truffle oil infused mascarpone quenelle. A stuffed pigeon roasted with green asparagus and fresh chanterelles sounds divine. Consider a tomato, basil, and garlic aspic with asparagus. A fried egg with shellfish and asparagus might hit the spot, or pair it with pan seared tuna. Try it with potatoes in an asparagus tarte parmentière. The more east you go, the more you see asparagus in risotto.

Back to the Rhone Alpes. Red mullet comes with asparagus and ham chips, or you might choose a slice of pan seared foie gras served over an asparagus pain perdu. Veal cutlets with their accompanying oyster mushrooms and asparagus might please you. Asperges sauce mousseline, or a creamy asparagus soup with morels and scallops nods to the regions. In Lyon, we regale in a delicious breed of Monkfish, traditionally and locally fished and served with chanterelles and asparagus, roasted jumbo shrimp glazed with shellfish jus and served along with an asparagus tip tartelette, turbot, thick sliced and oven-browned, served with a steamed asparagus terrine drizzled with fresh verbena infused jus. You might enjoy green asparagus cake with beet and fig sauce, or a lobster on salad with a white asparagus carpaccio. Line fished sole napped with Vin d'Apremont sauce and served with asparagus might just be the perfect ending to this trip around the country of France, as you round about this place I call home.

To summarize: In all, there are a lot of pairings, with seafood clearly taking priority all over France. The veloutes and creams caught my eye as they always do, as well as that nice garnish of diced smoked herring, sometimes called a smoked herring caviar that surfaced in two different regions. Tender veal and asparagus go hand in hand, with a special nod to sweetbreads. For sauces, you might think outside of the mouselline cream hollandaise box with fresh snappy flavors such as lemon confit, verbena, or grapefruit, especially if you are going for the seafood pairing. Simple sautes are popular in all regions, with the season's mushrooms (oyster or mousserons and morels, or black trumpets falling on an early cusp). Down south especially, chorizo or shaved Parmesan might make an embematic appearance with the oils of the regions over asparagus.

Voila, dear friends, I hope you enjoy it and can glean some ideas for asparagus from this survey.

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Blogger David said...

Hey, don't forget about the Ile-de-France and Paris.

There's a lot more to France than just the provinces!
; )

4:40 PM, June 04, 2008  
Blogger Kitt said...

Wow! Super-comprehensive! Thanks! (Adding more asparagus to the shopping list.)

6:32 PM, June 04, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear David, how could I forget? Silly me! In fact I had planned to do it last, and then got all excited and posted it before adding your excellent region and city.

You're welcome, Kitt.

6:34 PM, June 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Both asparagus and strawberries are being sold in my farmers' market and I look forward to both again this Saturday! Thanks for another terrific list!

11:24 PM, June 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa, I'd be happy to try everyone of those dishes. Thanks Lucy.
Really makes you look forward to and relish the short season of these delicacies. We still have a bit of a wait down here.

Yours drooly

9:48 AM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks very much Lucy - way more info than I expected...! ;)

2:43 PM, June 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am starting my asparagus bed tomorrow and planting ASAP. Thanks for all the ideas.

3:34 AM, June 07, 2008  

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