Nothing signals spring like asparagus. Spring was in the air last weekend. We planned a menu with one of the treats of the season. Sometimes we make asparagus with crumbles of hard-boiled egg, with diced red onion, mellowed in red wine vinegar.
We like to dress asparagus in some extra virgin olive oil and a dash of Kosher salt. Then, we head outside and grill the stalks. I’m always amazed when someone asks how I keep the stalks from falling into the grill. You don’t need those vegetable grill baskets. Turn the stalks so they are horizontal on the grates. That’s all.
When those first bunches of asparagus appear in the market, we all want grilled asparagus with Hollandaise. Or what my little guy calls “Holidays.” I usually make Hollandaise for Easter dinner, so maybe he’s right — we should call it “Holidays.”
When I was making it one year my older boy asked why it is called Hollandaise. I explained the reason to both of them. It hails from Holland, which is known as the Land of Butter, and the sauce is made with a hefty dose of melted butter.
They both laughed because they thought I made that up. I got out my copy of Craig Claiborne’s cookbook from The New York Times and showed them his words and recipe. Looking at the recipe, it calls for melting the butter in a double- boiler.
In a double- boiler you run the risk of accidentally scrambling the eggs. I haven’t used that method in years. I use my foolproof process in a blender. Melted butter, a golden egg yolk, a splash of fresh lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
We brought home our first batch of asparagus on Saturday. The guys help me prepare the stalks of asparagus. The first time I showed them, that asparagus will naturally break in the right spot, it was like I did a magic trick.
I said I was going to get the asparagus ready to cook — but not with my chef’s knife. I held the stalks with both hands and started to gently bend it. It snapped and they giggled. “Let me try one!” I had recruited kitchen helpers and they thought it was fun.
The versatile Hollandaise is a creamy topping for the smokey flavor of grilled asparagus. Last year I did a brunch for Easter. The thick sauce of melted butter, with a splash of lemon juice for brightness, makes for a brunch favorite as well. Eggs Benedict with ham, a poached egg, and a shower of fresh herbs, on an a toasted English Muffin. Perfect with a cup of tea.
We will probably do brunch again after our annual egg hunt. Maybe my Meyer lemon tree will be ready to give me some lemons. That would make it a “Holidays” sauce for sure.