The beloved white asparagus gets a bit of a modern treatment: wrapped in Serrano ham, pan fried and served with a creamy hollandaise kissed by a few herbs!
White asparagus season in Germany starts in the middle of April and runs through June and it’s a very special time! White asparagus is like a national treasure and you will find it on menus nationwide. For those few weeks a year it really is inescapable and if you don’t like it, you’re in for a rough time. Waiters will ask if you want to see the “Spargelkarte” or asparagus menu and try to sell the heck out of it! Since it’s difficult to harvest and fairly delicate, it can be rather expensive. I absolutely adore white asparagus so I will eat as much as I can get my hands on while the good times (and my funds!) last.
This is one of my most recent takes: This Pan Fried White Asparagus with Serrano Ham and Herby Hollandaise. I wrap the cooked asparagus in Serrano ham and pan fry it to give it an extra layer of flavor and texture. Top that with a traditional hollandaise enhanced with some parsley and chives, serve it with tiny new potatoes and you have a springtime food dream on a plate.
Apropos the hollandaise: it isn’t witchcraft! Yes, it can be a bit finicky, but as long as you follow the recipe you can hardly go wrong, I promise!
1 kg white asparagus
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
12-15 slices Serrano ham, halved
For the hollandaise:
250 g butter, melted but cooled
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley, plus more as garnish
1 tablespoon chopped chives, plus more as garnish
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon lemon juice to a large pot of water (so large that the asparagus can float freely in it) and bring to a lively simmer.
Trim an inch (2,5 cm) off the bottom of the asparagus stalks.
Lay the asparagus down on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to peel away the tough outer layer, sparing the delicate tips. Laying the asparagus down is important as the pressure of peeling may otherwise cause the stalks to snap in two.
Cook for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the stalks) until tender but still al dente. A knife inserted into the lower part of the stalk should glide through easily.
When ready, remove from the water with tongs and drain on paper towels.
When the asparagus has cooled, wrap a half slice of Serrano ham around each stalk.
Preheat oven to 175 F (80 C).
Heat a large pan on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter to the pan and swirl around until melted. Add as many Serrano wrapped asparagus stalks as will fit in a single row. Cook until the asparagus and ham have some nice light brown char marks, turning the stalks with tongs so they brown evenly. I find it goes faster if you weigh the asparagus down with a heavy pan.
Remove from the pan and place into the oven in an ovenproof dish. Repeat until all asparagus is finished and leave in the oven while you make the hollandaise.
Prepare a double boiler: bring a pot with an inch or two of water to a simmer. Find a smaller pot or heatproof bowl that fits into the larger pot snuggly, but don’t put it on yet.
Place egg yolks into the smaller pot or heat proof bowl with 3 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Prepare the melted and cooled butter along with a teaspoon and tablespoon next to the stove.
Place the smaller pot or heatproof bowl over the pot with the simmering water. The smaller bowl/pot should not be touching the water otherwise it will get too hot.
Whisk constantly until you have a creamy mass that has about doubled in volume.
Keep whisking (really, I mean it! Otherwise your eggs will curdle.), and add the melted butter, first a teaspoon, then a tablespoon at a time.
When the butter is used up, remove the pot or bowl from the double boiler.
Add a teaspoon each of chives and parsley and use an immersion blender to blend into the hollandaise. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste.
Arrange the asparagus onto plates and drizzle with hollandaise. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and chives and serve immediately with the extra hollandaise on the side.