Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Dining

I went to Le Voltaire–a fancy-pants french resto on Quai Voltaire right off the Seine–a few nights ago with some friends to sample the oeufs mayonnaise, which according to Le Figaro, are the best in Paris.  Our server walked us through the handwritten menu, helpfully pointing things out to me that were vegetarian-friendly. He mentioned that I should get the asperges blanches (white asparagus), as they were in peak season and it is a traditional spring dish, but I had already been seduced by another entrée option, and thus declined. The table next to ours ordered the asperges blanches, and when they was delivered, I had one of the most serious cases of FOMO in my entire life. They looked amazing, and came with a tasty-looking sauce. The neighboring diners made sounds of contentment as they nommed into the asparagus. I enjoyed the food that I ordered, but I couldn't help but think about those asperges blanches. I don't believe in regrets, but I came pretty close to regretting my decision that night.

The oeufs mayonnaise
Killer dinner, but nary an asperge blanche in sight...

Rather than blow my dining-out budget by going back to Le Voltaire, I decided to make some asperges blanches myself. I went with a recipe I found on marmiton.org, as I had been pleased with the outcome of the ratatouille I'd made from a recipe I'd found on the same site.  I invited a friend over for dinner to keep me motivated. The menu: a vegetarian salade nicoise, asperges blanches, and Ben and Jerry's for dessert!

A little pre-dinner apéro.

First course: salad nicoise à la végétarien

The salad: lettuce, tomato, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) hardboiled egg, artichoke, shallots, sundried tomato, haricots verts. Topped off with homemade dressing. 

My lovely dining companion.

The dishes seemed simple enough, but required a bit of technique to execute. I had to blanche the haricots verts, and the sauce had to be put in a bath of hot water to cook, but not too hot to risk cooking the egg in the sauce. I cooked it a bit too long, but since I was serving it to someone else, I decided a bit of cooked egg was a lesser evil than salmonella poisoning. Kitchen gaffs aside, my guest remarked at the end of the meal that the salad was good, but the asperges blanches was "amazing". I was so proud :)

So there you have it! I don't know about the availability of white asparagus in the U.S. (or elsewhere), but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend trying this dish. It's milder and more tender than it's green cousin, and the sauce that goes with it is really good.

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