Warm White Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche

White asparagus is simply good old green asparagus that has been covered with soil to keep sunlight (and green chlorophyll-producing photosynthesis) away from the ripening spears. It’s in the ground they develop their unique delicate flavor. The spears are then harvested before their tips break through the surface. The farmers must keep a close watch on the white asparagus crop, which is typically harvested by hand at dawn. If the tip of a shoot grows beyond the mound and is exposed to the sun, it will turn a light purple color.

I’ve never had good local white asparagus, which are usually thin and quite stringy, but I was lucky to find the Argenteuil white asparagus, a renowned French heirloom which are much thicker, tender and delicious. Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherland also produce excellent varieties and can be found in good markets in the US from mid-april to may.

You don’t want to mask the delicate flavor of white asparagus so it’s usually served warm with either a simple vinaigrette, a rich mousseline sauce, or a sauce gribiche which is essentially a broken vinaigrette enriched with chopped hard boiled eggs, cornichons, capers and herbs. Note that white asparagus must be peeled and it takes about twice the time to blanch them than regular asparagus.

The season is only a few weeks long so now is the time. Go and look for them.

  • White Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche

  • Serves 4
    • For the white asparagus with sauce gribiche:
    • 16 thick white asparagus (from Europe)
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
    • 3 or 4 cornichons, coarsely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, chervil, chives, tarragon), chopped
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • For the white asparagus with sauce gribiche:
    • Place the egg in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Cool in cold running water. Remove the shell. Separate the white from the yolk and chop both finely.
    • Meanwhile, place a large pot of water (or an asparagus steamer) over high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water.
    • Peel the asparagus and attach them in the bundle with kitchen string (optional) and blanch them in boiling water until tender. (If using an asparagus steamer, fill only half with water, place the asparagus in the basket and place the lid on. The asparagus tips will steam while the stems get blanched.) The cooking time varies depending on thickness but they take longer to cook than regular asparagus. Use the tip of a small knife to test doneness.
    • Place the mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, cornichons, capers, chopped egg in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the chopped herbs at the last moment.
    • Serve the warm asparagus with the sauce gribiche on the side.
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  • http://www.threecleversisters.com Sara

    I’ve only recently tried sauce gribiche and was surprised by how much I liked it.  (I like all the ingredients, so I don’t know why I was dubious; perhaps the hard-cooked egg?).  This sounds like a great way to enjoy white asparagus.

  • atKokken

    White asparagus seems to become more and more common and affordable here but the quality varies…. I had been told by a well known French chef here that he still sticks by the ones from Germany…. I have never cooked with white asparagus and this looks like a good place to start… Thanks again for another sassy recipe! 

  • http://tastykoken.nl/ corrine

    I live nearby the fields where they grow white asparagus. Here in the Netherlands we think that we grow the best quality asparagus:-)    People prefer eating them warm simply with some melted butter, hard-boiled eggs and cooked ham. Delicious!

  • Anonymous

    Boy, I haven’t had a Sauce Gribiche in quite awhile now – several years at least.  Silly me – time to make it again.  And you make an interesting point about local white asparagus – I, too, haven’t had one that I thought was all that great.  But I thought it was just me.  I’ll have to look for the imported – I know my regular supermarket doesn’t carry it, but there are several other places where I sometimes shop that probably do.  Interesting light on the 2nd picture.  Anyway, as always, good post.  Thanks.

  • Anonymous
  • http://twitter.com/Nawal_ Nawal

    Oh Punaiiise !!! 
    Ps : Bon 1er Mai ;)

  • Anonymous

    On travaille ici le 1er Mai! :)  

  • Anonymous

    That looks great. I’m sure the white asparagus grown in the Netherlands are amazing. I’m going to add it to the list. :)

  • Anonymous

    Haha.. someone commented that the Netherlands produce the best white asparagus. I’ll keep rooting for the ones from Alsace! :P

  • Anonymous

    It really is. Thank you!

  • http://www.ouichefnetwork.com Oui, Chef

    You are so French….I love that about you!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it takes a bit of research to find good white asparagus but it’s well worth it if you do. 

  • Guest

    I have been trying to incorporate purple asparagus into my dishes without success (by the time they are properly cooked the purple color has vanished, remove them from the heat while still purple and find the asparagus under cooked). I think I will have to be content with green and white. Thank you for providing me some inspiration for my solace dish!

  • http://www.unintentionalsteam.blogspot.com Chris Chang

    I was intrigued by this post because I never heard of a Sauce Gribiche…this looks really REALLY tasty. And these pictures don’t help ’cause it’s dinnertime!!
    This looks like such a simple delicious side dish!! I think maybe the next time I have guests over I’ll prepare this or at least the sauce gribiche and find something to pair it with :D

  • http://thedrostens.blogspot.com/ Thijs Drosten

    Hmmm, white asparagus.
    I’m dutch as well, and being well…..dutch….I’ll give you this tip:
    - boil the peels first in water and then strain and use this water to boil your asparagus in.  Save the cooking water again, and turn it into a soup, thickened with a little bit with a bit of roux, and put in a few chunks of an asparagus or two. Top with a bit of parsley nad maybe finely shredded ham.  
    Maybe Zen chef will find a better way to thicken the soup (egg? cream?), but this is the traditional way to turn your expensive white asparagus into two meals in the netherlands.

    Enjoy,

    Thijs

  • http://justonecookbook.com/blog/ Nami | Just One Cookbook

    My god, this sauce looks so delicoius.  I’ve never had white asparagus in my life yet.  When I do, I’d love to have this sauce with it.  Gorgeous photos!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ amy @ WANF

    as always, gorge. and i’m totally using your sauce gribiche recipe.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Amy! Delicious stuff. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Nami! Sauce gribiche is one of my favorites and it goes so well with many steamed vegetables. 

  • Anonymous

    Wow, great tip Thijs. I love the idea of turning the cooking liquid into a veloute. And at the price they cost it makes a lot of sense. I’ll be sure to try this technique. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Chris! The sauce gribiche can be matched with many other steamed vegetables. It’s also great with pig feet! Thomas Keller serves it with pork trotters at Bouchon. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have experience cooking purple asparagus but I’m not surprised the color vanishes after cooking. Same thing happens with purple carrots. 

  • Anonymous

    haha.. when I go to France they say I’m “so American”. :)

  • http://marcuskookt.blogspot.com/ marc

    a recipe about asparagus without mentioning belgium? Our asparagus are like veal from Coreze and langoustines de Guilvinec ;-) Anyway the sauce gribiche is great! I usually make it as a salsa verde (without the egg but with fresh mint) and with fresh tuna, seared 1 second but it goes fantastic with the aspargus, thanks for the zen touch!

  • Anonymous

    I totally missed the boat on my list of white asparagus producing countries. Lots of neighboring countries claim to have the best according to some comments below so I updated my post to include Belgium and the Netherland. Thanks for the heads up! :)

  • http://www.vodkitchen.com Jon @ vodkitchen

    We do see white asparagus here but I have yet to try cooking it… perhaps now that should change.

  • http://www.tastewiththeeyes.com/ Lori Lynn

    Great sauce. Lovely dish.
    LL

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ amy @ WANF

    see – i don’t lie. just told jonny we’re making your sauce gribiche tonight w/ our fish dinner.  i’m sure it will be awesome. i trust your recipe over anyone else. can’t wait!

  • Anonymous

    Hope you liked it! :)  

  • Miss Maven Muse

    Amazing recipe! Tried it last night and loved the sauce. Might came out cloudier though, but it was still delicious.