White Asparagus

No point in arguing food miles to certain European expat chefs when the subject turns to (nonlocal) white asparagus. So revered are the oversize albino stalks in Germany, for example, that during asparagus season (or Spargelzeit), there are Oktoberfest-level celebrations, peeling contests, and, in a few asparagus-crazed towns, the crowning of an asparagus king and queen. Kurt Gutenbrunner, the Austrian chef-owner of Blaue Gans and Wallsé whose unbridled enthusiasm for the prized veggie makes you wonder whether he’s descended from asparagus royalty himself, recommends the imported French variety available at Truffette (104 Avenue B; 212-505-5813). He also suggests “eating a great deal of them as the season is short.”

Kurt Gutenbrunner’s White Asparagus
3 pounds, about 16 pieces white asparagus
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ounces butter
1 small piece of baguette or white bread

Drape a dish towel over a large, inverted mixing bowl. (1) To peel asparagus, grip the spear with three fingers, protecting the tip, and lean it against the bowl to prevent it from breaking. With a swivel vegetable peeler, remove the thick outer layer starting just below the tip, turning the spear as you peel. Peel them well, as the skin can be tough and bitter. (2) Trim approximately one inch off the woody end of each spear. Add the salt, sugar, and butter to 4 quarts of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. (3) Add the bread, which helps eliminate bitterness, and the asparagus, and cook for about 8 minutes, until cooked through but still firm. Remove asparagus and dry on a towel. Serve at room temperature with an herb vinaigrette (made with good extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice) or hollandaise sauce.

Photo: Kang Kim for New York Magazine. Illustrations by John Burgoyne.
White Asparagus