We’ve just gotten through what is for me the hardest part of the year when it comes to food and cooking. The fun fruits and vegetables of winter are no longer in season and the weather is spring- or even summer-like, but all the delicious spring veggies haven’t caught up yet.
Well our farmer’s market opened last weekend and we get our first installment of our CSA box next week. And it’s finally what the Germans call Spargelzeit or asparagus season.
I have loved asparagus since long before I ever heard of Spargelzeit, but one of the many things I love about the Germans is their celebration of seasonal foods. When asparagus is in season people go crazy, eating it at every meal. Restaurants feature it in every dish on the menu and there are piles of it at the markets.
I really enjoy eating this way, because it makes each asparagus you eat special. And then, just when you think you might be getting sick of asparagus, they’re gone and now it’s strawberry season.
Asparagus is one of those vegetables where fresh and in season really make a difference. It’s best eaten as soon after it’s been picked as possible, before the ends get dried out and tough, making it a good candidate for the farmers market.
Germans are all about white asparagus, which is grown under mounds of dirt, preventing photosynthesis. They claim the flavor is more delicate, and I agree that when done correctly white asparagus can be very nice. But I actually enjoy the flavor of green asparagus and was always able to find green asparagus in Germany during Spargelzeit. So this recipe is only very loosely inspired by Germany, where it is usually boiled, and often served with cured ham (Schinken), potatoes, and hollandaise sauce.
Asparagus from Germany (kind of)
asparagus (mine were pretty thick and we ended up with 5 spears per person)
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
½ cup of creme fraiche
4 thin slices of prosciutto of Black Forest Ham or any other dry-cured ham
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and set out a roasting pan or a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Rinse your asparagus and pat dry. Cut off the dry ends or break them off with your hands where they naturally break. Supposedly if you kind of bend the ends they will break off at just the right spot, although I have had mixed luck with that and I think I usually break too much off.
Brush the asparagus spears with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Arrange them on your pan with space between each spear if possible and then place the pan in the oven. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is getting delicious, boil your two eggs. I like a medium-boiled egg in place of a poached egg when I’m feeling lazy. I have always made asparagus with poached or boiled eggs, but I have no indication that that is in any way traditional. It just seems tasty and is part of my general philosophy that adding an egg to a veggie centered meal will always make it better.
While the asparagus is roasting and the eggs are boiling, mix together the mustard and the creme fraiche. I’ll admit this makes quite a bit more than you probably need, but it’s so delicious and I am currently eating some of it spread on bread with slices of cheddar cheese. This takes the place of the much heavier and much harder to make hollandaise sauce and comes from a recipe in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, one of my favorite cookbooks.
After 8 minutes check on your asparagus. Mine were perfect at 10 minutes, just about the time when the thicker ends can be pierced with a fork but before everything gets too soft. Cool and peel your eggs.
Then divide the asparagus between two plates and arrange the dry-cured ham and the eggs. Spoon the mustard and craime fraiche mixture over the asparagus. Guten Appetit!