I came to the conclusion a while back that there isn’t a vegetable that’s not better roasted. I backtracked a bit, not just because that idea was too many double-negatives in one sentence, but thought that peas probably aren’t better roasted. I haven’t tried them; the idea of tiny peas being reduced to a shriveled bb’s doesn’t sound appealing to me. And while I know a lot of people like to roast radishes, boasting that they’re better than fresh ones, don’t believe them.
Then I go nuts with it, and try to eat it as often as I can before it’s gone. I tend to roast asparagus, but I do like it steamed as well, especially when it’s tossed in a very flavorful dressing, like this one. Sure, you can now find asparagus all year ’round, but I wait until spring when it’s truly in season.
Someone recently asked me if it was necessary to peel asparagus. First off, let me say that some people like those pencil-thin spears of asparagus, but I prefer the big, wide fat ones, that are nice and meaty. The thin ones can be chewy, in my experience, although they usually don’t need peeling, so you save on that step if you’re not up for it.
But I don’t mind peeling it, which I only do for the bottom part of the spears. When you peel some yourself, you’ll notice that the shavings that come off can be tough and you don’t want to eat those. Asparagus is one of the world’s truly luxurious foods, which fortunately is within reach of a lot more people than other luxury foods, so when you eat it, you want it to be as perfect of an experience as possible. So the answer to whether or not you should peel thick asparagus is a resounding “Yes!”
Another question that comes up is whether white or green asparagus is better. For years, Americans felt deprived because we didn’t have white asparagus. And in France, green asparagus was more the exception, rather than the rule. Over the last few years, there’s a lot more green asparagus in France, probably because some of it comes from other countries. But there’s French-grown green and white (and sometimes purple) asparagus at the markets, so you can take your pick.
White asparagus is more perishable and doesn’t keep as well. It tends to be softer when cooked, and sometimes white asparagus can be bitter, which I’ve never experienced with green asparagus. But like our neighbors in Germany who love their spargel (isn’t that one of the best words, in any language?), white tends to get more press, and space at the market.
Speaking of France, the word “mimosa” means with hard-cooked eggs, and this recipe not only gives you a chance to give your vegetable peeler a workout but is also the time to hone your knife skills to cut the egg into little cubes. They don’t have to be perfect (which would be hard, since eggs are rounded) but they look nicer in the sauce and on the asparagus when they’re diced, rather than hacked away at, although they can also be shaved using the large holes of a cheese grater, too. But in this instance, I say go for the cubes.
In addition to peeling asparagus, and every once in a while someone asks me what’s the big deal about flat-leaf parsley. The deal is that is has a lot more flavor than curly parsley, so that’s what I always use.
Now that we’ve gotten all those questions out of the way, I should let you know that I like to prepare the sauce and “add-ins” separately, then mix them together at the last minute. I like them to remain a little distinct until the last minute, and I reserve some chopped parsley and eggs to strew over the top so they’re not lost in the mix.
Lastly, this is a hands-on dish, and by that I mean that using your hands ensures that the dressing coats the asparagus, which you can ascertain by feel. Oh, and speaking of which, a while back, somewhere I mentioned that the French don’t usually eat things with their hands, but use a knife and fork. It often surprises Americans to see French people go at a burger with knives and forks, and New Yorker’s go apoplectic if someone doesn’t pick up pizza to eat it.
But someone sent me a message that they were visiting France and saw someone eating something with their hands (I think it was a baguette sandwich?), so I was wrong. There are, indeed, some things the French eat with their hands, and that includes asparagus. (And baguette sandwiches.) So while I have strong feelings about peeling asparagus, feel free to eat the spears however you want. Although for these, I’d stick with a knife and fork.