One of the things I love the most about traveling (and now living) in a new country is the exposure to new foods. While France is fairly similar to Canada, I have had the opportunity to try some new foods such as rillettes (similar to a pâté), Sainte-Maure goat cheese (the regional specialty), escargots (which aren’t uncommon in fine dining restaurants in Canada, but here they are the norm) and of course, I have come to love the artistry breads, pastries and sweets.
As I’ve stated many times before, I love going to the market here. For the most part, I enjoy learning the French names for some of my favourite vegetables, but from time to time I see something that I don’t immediately recognize. White asparagus was one of them.
I’m not sure if I just walked by it at our stores in Canada, or if I have simply not seen it before, either way I have been missing out. White Asparagus is amazingly delicious and well worth the slightly expensive price tag. As the website, Asparagus Growing, states: “White asparagus is also called the king of darkness because it grows underground and sometimes it is even referred to as white gold. It is special for how it is produced. It is cultivated by depriving the plants light. The plant is covered with dirt while growing to keep it in the dark. That way the plant cannot produce chlorophyll so the stalks don’t get their green color and remain white [...] as a result, the white asparagus is slightly bitter, but tender, fibreless, soft and more delicate than the green one.”.
After some recipe research, I found out that white asparagus is usually prepared in a soup or lightly steamed with a lemon garlic sauce. I wasn’t feeling like a cream of asparagus soup or just simply steamed asparagus, I wanted something different. Since I always crave french fries, the idea of coating the asparagus in breadcrumbs entered my thoughts and I decided to go with it.
I have to say that this was probably one of the best ideas I’ve had in a while. It was delicious, the crispy outside compliment the tender yet meaty inside, and in my opinion, you really couldn’t ask for more. I absolutely inhaled the dish, vowing to make it again soon.
I served this dish with a fresh garlic aioli, but in all honesty it went to waste because this asparagus didn’t need anything alongside it – it was just too perfect by itself.
Hopefully you can purchase white asparagus in your region and can give this recipe a try. All I am hoping is that I can find white asparagus when I get back to Canada, that or I will have to plan a return trip to France next Spring to make it again!
Pan Fried White Asparagus
Yield: 1 side-dish serving
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 5 – 7 minutes
- 4 stalks of white asparagus, cleaned
- 1/2 of a whole lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use either panko or crushed up croutons)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 TBSP butter
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, prepare your asparagus. Since the outside skin of white asparagus are tough, you will need to remove it by peeling it with a vegetable grater (or with a knife, with a very steady hand). Trim the bottoms of the asparagus, about 1/2 an inch.
Once the water has reached a boil, add in the lemon half and the asparagus. Cook the asparagus for approximately 20 – 30 minutes. White Asparagus is a lot denser than green asparagus, thus it takes a lot longer to cook. You will know it is ready when a knife inserts easily into the middle of a stalk and you can remove it without resistance.
Remove the asparagus from the water and place on paper towel to drain. Allow the asparagus to cool to room temperature (about 10 minutes).
Once the asparagus is cool, slice the asparagus in half horizontally, creating two stalks about the same size. Now, prepare the coating.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder and a generous amount of S&P.
In another small bowl, place your slightly beaten egg.
Finally in a third bowl, place the flour. Basically you are creating a breading station.
Begin by placing 2 or 3 stalks of asparagus in the flour. Toss to coat and tap gently to remove excess flour.
Then, dip each stalk individually into the egg mixture and then place it into the breadcrumb mixture. Gently pat the asparagus stalk, to evenly coat it with the breadcrumbs. Remove the asparagus from the breadcrumb mixture and set aside.
Repeat the steps until all of the asparagus’ are coated.
In a medium sized non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for approximately 5 – 7 minutes, checking and rotating frequently to ensure even cooking and a crisp, golden brown on all sides.
Remove from the pan and place again on paper towels to drain off excess oil.
Serve immediately with a dipping sauce of your choice!