Philippe's cousins visited us from Normandy last weekend and brought a special gift, over 10 kilos or 25 pounds — of asparagus! What a perfect gift; this is one of Philippe's favorite foods and he could eat it 365 days a year. Normandy reflects what I love about France , the importance of food in everyday life. I love the background stories as well. Pascal bought the asparagus from a man whose cousin makes the best fly fishing ‘mouches' or ties in the region. He lives in Embreville, one of the two most reputed villages in France for their excellent asparagus. If you need fishing flies, we can put you in touch with the growers cousin.
Asparagus is a root vegetable and unlike many countries, is still grown in fields in France , not forced or grown in greenhouses.
The most popular variety is the fat white asparagus, a French favorite. I grew up with green asparagus and had trouble believing that all white asparagus has the same vitamins as green, but we checked and both the white and violet asparagus in France are equally rich in vitamins. The asparagus appeared late this year because of the cold winter. The season is short, late spring and early summer, and we've been eating it like mad for two months. Philippe spent hours peeling each stalk, separating and freezing in zip lock bags to save for the fall and winter.
Philippe's cousin Marie Agnes is a busy working mother. When I asked for her recipe for hollandaise sauce she replied: “No way, I don't spend my time making it from scratch any more. I buy the boxes of ready-made Hollandaise by Maggi at the supermarket!'
We love to eat with hollandaise sauce or a simple vinaigrette dressing made with a little French mustard.
If you can't buy ready-made hollandaise, here is an easy blender hollandaise recipe:
Blender Hollandaise Sauce
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 oz butter
Salt and pepper
- Put the egg yolks in the blender, add lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir.
- Add the hot butter to the hollandaise sauce in the blender. Blend at full speed until the sauce thickens
- Finished! Serve immediately.
Here is the longer version of the traditional Hollandaise sauce, courtesy of Epicurious. My mother in law hadn't heard of adding cayenne but thought it sounded interesting; that may be the American touch.
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
3 large egg yolks
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Boil vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, salt, and white pepper in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon
- Whisk in yolks, then cook over very low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened (be careful not to scramble yolks), about 1 minute. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, lifting pan
occasionally to cool sauce and adding each piece before previous one is completely melted.
- Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice, cayenne, and salt to taste.