Germans are said to have been the first to introduce the production of white asparagus or “spargel,” made by depriving the spears from sunlight so that they cannot produce chlorophyll. German restaurants will often celebrate the brief season with special “Spargel Karte” menus that showcase the white spears in all their glory. Take a look at what’s on my Spargel Karte menu:
|White asparagus custard topped with roasted shallots and pancetta crisp, served beside a baby spinach salad in creamy white balsamic vinaigrette|
I underestimated the rarity of white asparagus and had a hard time finding them. Of course it was in the last place I looked, at some random mom and pop-type gourmet fruit and vegetable store right next door to one of the big name supermarkets. I was so happy to have finally have them in my hands that I made this dish as soon as I got home.
The custard turned out nice and light and the flavor of the asparagus really came through. Together with the custard, the smokey crunch of the pancetta crisp, sweet roasted shallots and tangy white balsamic-dressed spinach all made for an excellent lunch. A few blanched spears on the side to showcase the white asparagus at its purest, and it was complete!
Topped with roasted shallots and pancetta crisp, served beside a baby spinach salad in creamy white balsamic vinaigrette.
Yield: 6-7 servings in small-medium sized ramekins
- 3 eggs
- 8 white asparagus spears + extra for garnish (optional)
- 12 ounces heavy cream + 2-4 ounces extra, heated for pureeing
- Salt for seasoning
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
• To prep asparagus for blanching, lightly peel each spear with a vegetable peeler, and cut off the thick bottoms. Bring a pot of water to a boil and lightly salt the water. Also, prepare an ice filled water bowl for shocking.
• Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. When done, shock in the ice water to stop the cooking process. After removing the cooled asparagus from the ice water; coarsely chop 8 spears and add to a food processor. Set the rest aside for garnish (if using).
• Pulse the white asparagus in food processor while slowly adding the hot heavy cream until you have a thick puree. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the puree with eggs, 12 ounces of heavy cream, and salt. Pour the mixture into ramekins, then place the ramekins in a pan filled with ½ inch of water. Bake until custard is set, about 45 minutes.
• Allow the custard to completely cool before removing from ramekins. The custard should easily come loose after running a knife around the edge.
• Pancetta crisps: Place 6-7 thin slices of pancetta on a sheet tray and bake in a 350 degree oven until crisp, 15-20 minutes.
• Roasted shallots: peel and quarter 2-4 shallots (depending on size), and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; lay out on a sheet tray and roast in 450 degree oven until soft and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Chop and toss with a little bit of the white balsamic vinaigrette before serving on top of the custard.
• Creamy white balsamic vinaigrette: In a medium sized bowl, mix 6 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar with 1 clove of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and ¼ teaspoon of honey. Slowly whisk in about ¼ of regular olive oil until dressing becomes thick and creamy; season with salt and pepper. Toss with baby spinach or similar green to lightly coat.