Monday, May 29, 2006

Asparagus Polonaise Before Asparagus is Out of Season

This dish was discussed in the post two weeks back about downtown Baltimore's second farmers Market of the season.

The asparagus polonaise preparation that follows was inspired by the 1971 Four Seasons Cookbook , Ridge Press and Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc., and Crescent Books, New York. Needless to say, it features recipes of the era from that still renowned Manhattan restaurant. I recently checked all five Four Seasons current spring menus. Nearly all of them offered asparagus soup, asparagus polenta, and something with white asparagus, but not asparagus polonaise.

Upon following the cookbook instructions two weeks ago, we mindlessly allowed our tied-together bunches to boil for ten of "10 to 15 minutes" the recipe called for. By then, our fresh picked asparagus had become mush. Too many cookbooks say to overcook asparagus, and I don't get it. Asparagus should be cooked until tender enough to easily penetrate with a fork. Much longer and it will fall apart. My recommendation is to plunge into the boiling salted water and check with a fork every minute. Most likely, it will be done to your liking after two minutes.

Just as important is that you go to the trouble to find asparagus that's been cut in the past 24 hours and kept cool thereafter with the bottom parts immersed in water. Make certain the tops are firm and green/purple with no signs of going to seed or yellowing.

Now it's time to begin your preparation:


4 pounds asparagus
1/2 cup clarified butter
(Heat butter til it melts, let stand,and clear part will pour off
3 tablespoons freshly grated bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated hard-boiled egg yolk
3 tablespoons grated hard-boiled egg white
3 tablespoons minced parsley

Cut woody ends off asparagus, peel, wash, tie into bundles with white cooking string. Cook bundles in a large pot full of boiling salted water, monitoring by the minute until tender enough to penetrate with a fork. Immediately remove from heat and refresh by running cold water over the asparagus. Then untie bunches and arrange on a buttered flame-proof dish. Meanwhile, heat clarified butter in a skillet. Mix remaining ingredients and add to butter. Saute for a few minutes,then sprinkle over the asparagus. Run under the broiler for a minute or so to brown very slightly. Serves 6.