Easter Brunch Tea Party: Asparagus with Lemon

I used to have a long bed of asparagus. What a treat it was to see the first green tips sprouting through the earth in the Spring. Some stalks emerge pencil thin and some come up as thick as your thumb. It is a mistake to think that the skinny stalks are the youngest or freshest. Asparagus was called sparrow grass by country folks a few generations ago. Those same country folks recommended that asparagus not be cut after the longest day of the year, advice we always followed. And one last asparagus fact, asparagus gives some people smelly pee (I really did work hard to come up with a better way to say this). Everyone affected this way is genetically related to everyone else with the same condition.

Asparagus stems get woody and tough at the base. Bend the stalk and where it breaks is where you should cut and discard. Peeling or not peeling is a matter of aesthetics; I rather like the natural stalks myself. Try to buy asparagus that’s all about the same size so it cooks evenly. When steaming, slim spears take two to three minutes to tender crisp, medium spears about five to seven minutes and fat spears eight to ten minutes. Boiling takes one to two minutes less.

To make the recipe: bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook according to size as described above. OR use a large frying pan in which you’ve placed a cooling rack in order to steam the asparagus. Never use a lid when cooking asparagus or it will lose its green color.

When cooked, drain the asparagus and plunge into ice water to cool. Drain and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

For simple Asparagus with Lemon, serve cold with lemon wedges on the side. For something a bit more, serve the asparagus with vinaigrette on the side.

Asparagus Vinaigrette:
2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and slowly whisk the oil into them until thick and creamy. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and chill. There is still some controversy about using raw eggs. The very young, the elderly and people who are already battling disease probably want to avoid them.