Everyone knows green asparagus—it's making an appearance right now in the markets, announcing that spring has arrived. But not everyone knows white asparagus. It rarely shows up in the market because it's such a specialty but it's definitely worth searching for. Not only does the color (or absence of) make it unique, its flavor is more delicate and milder than green asparagus. But why is it white?
White asparagus is not a genetically modified variety, which most people would assume. It's really just green asparagus that has been kept from turning green. To keep it from turning green farmers cover the asparagus with mulch before it sprouts from the ground. This keeps out the light, shuts off photosynthesis, and produces the pale cream-colored spears.
Cooking with white asparagus is not much different than green, however, it's recommended that you peel the stalks because the skins tend to be tough and bitter. The simplest way to prepare it is just to boil it. Typically a hollandaise sauce or melted butter would then go on top but my recipe features a savory brown butter vinaigrette made with tangy lemon juice and sherry vinegar. It's perfect as an appetizer or even a side dish for any spring menu.
White Asparagus with Brown-Butter Vinaigrette
1 bunch white asparagus
fine sea salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Trim about 1 inch from the tough ends of the asparagus spears using a sharp knife. Peel about 2/3 of each spear below the floret using a vegetable peeler, being careful not to break the asparagus.
Bring a skillet filled with about 2 inches of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, add butter to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Let butter turn a nutty brown, about 5 minutes, while swirling the pan to keep the butter from foaming too much. Pour browned butter into a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk in lemon juice and vinegar. Season with salt. Stir in parsley.
Carefully transfer asparagus to a platter and pour over with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.