Asparagus with Hollandaise

A Three Course Meal in One Thousand seconds

Many years ago Belgium television broadcasted a program called Duizend Seconden. In this show Herwig Van Hove, Chef and professor in chemistry) would create a three-course meal in 1000 seconds (or less). The show was hosted by Felice (Dré Steemans) who also assisted the Chef when necessary. During the show Herwig van Hove would not only show how things had to be done, but he would also explain why. He came up with the great yet simple idea to create Hollandaise using a microwave.

We all know that sauces like Hollandaise, Béarnaise and many more rely on raising the temperature in a controlled and slow way. That’s why we learn to use a bowl, a pan with gently simmering water, carefully avoiding direct contact between the bowl and the water, whisk, and whisk some more. Some add the butter gradually; others start with the complete mixture. Some add mustard (which is always a great way of creating smoothness and enhancing consistency) and others add corn starch (strictly forbidden). Others dash of to the supermarket and buy some hideous powder (you wouldn’t do that of course).
Back to Herwig van Hove: the crucial part is to add warmth to the mixture in a controlled and slow way. So why not use a microwave? It gives you all the control you need for a perfect Hollandaise.
We would love to add a link to YouTube, but alas, none of their many shows is on the channel.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Hollandaise with a glass of Petit Sois, 2015, (produced by Bodegas Costers del Sio, Spain) which is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat. The Viognier brings a touch of freshness to the dish, which works well with the lemon in the Hollandaise. Combining white asparagus with Muscat is a classic. The Chardonnay is a bridge to the buttery aspect of the sauce. So the wine in your glass has multiple links to what’s on your plate, which makes it a truly wonderful dish.

What You Need

  • One Egg Yolk
  • 50 grams of Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Water
  • ½ tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • White Pepper
  • 4 Asparagus

What You Do

Melt the butter in the microwave on low power (10-30% of the power of your microwave, depending on the specifics of your oven). Make sure the butter is luke warm. Now whisk the yolk a bit, add the water and the lemon juice and whisk some more. Add this mixture to the butter and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds of 30%. Remove from oven and whisk. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. Towards the end of the cooking move to steps of 5 seconds on 10% power. Whisk, play and feel free to find your own way (it also depends on the amount of water in the butter, the temperature of the egg et cetera). When the Hollandaise is ready take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and cool slightly in a bath of cold water.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 25 or 30 minutes; they should be well done for this dish). Serve the asparagus with just a bit of white pepper and a generous helping of Hollandaise.

 

Bay Boletes with Brussels Sprouts and Tenderloin

Bay Bolete

The Bay Bolete is a tasty, fairly common mushroom. Its cap is chestnut (bay) brown. They are easy to find under pines and other conifers in Europe and North America (but we’re not mushroom hunters) and unfortunately not so easy to find on the market. The main season for the Bay Bolete is late summer and autumn. Bay Boletes are rarely infested with maggots. They dry very well.
When comparing the taste of Bay Boletes and Cepes we think that Cepes have a more powerful and complex taste whereas Bay Boletes are nuttier.

We remember Brussels sprouts from our youth: over- cooked, greyish, soggy and oh-that-smell (it’s sulphur actually)! Once in a blue moon we take a trip down memory lane and cook them this way, but we prefer a more modern approach, for instance steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Nutmeg is a must by the way.

Wine

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full-bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast. A juicy wine with nice acidity and smooth tannins. Fresh and vigorous finish.

You could also go for a Malbec. Taste wise the mushrooms and the sprouts are very powerful, so you’re looking for a wine that will clearly support the beef and will also combine with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and the touch of bitterness of the sprouts.

Here is what you need

  • Boletes
    • 150 grams of Bay Boletes
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • One glove of Fresh Garlic
    • Parsley
  • Brussels Sprouts
    • 200 grams of Brussels Sprouts
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
  • 150 grams of excellent Beef (Tenderloin is best in this case)
  • Black Pepper

Let’s Start Cooking

We begin with the Brussels sprouts: clean them (don’t cut in half as so many do nowadays) and cook or steam them until they are nearly okay. Set aside and let cool. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and/or kitchen paper. Slice (not too thin). Heat a skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently over medium heat. In parallel warm a pan with some butter and add the sprouts. The idea is to coat them with butter and warm them, giving them just the cuisson you prefer. Heat a second skillet with olive oil and butter, fry the beef and let rest for 5 minutes or so in aluminum foil. Season the sprouts with some nutmeg. Back to the mushrooms: add chopped garlic to the pan. Wait a few minutes and then add chopped parsley. You could make a jus in the skillet you used for the beef. Serve on a hot plate with extra nutmeg and black pepper.

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.

Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.

Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the Clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.

Salad of White Asparagus with Chervil

A salad can be a very rewarding starter of your lunch or dinner on a nice summer’s day, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. Salade Ni­çoi­se, Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus with Chervil.

Combining salad and wine is not straightforward. Especially the acidity of the dressing creates a challenge. One solution is to use verjuice and not vinegar. Verjuice is made by pressing unripe grapes. The idea is that verjuice links to wine, whereas classic vinegar or lemon juice would compete with wine. In this case we choose a wine that reflects the flavours of the salad: a hint of anise, a touch of sweetness and florality. Typical notes you will find in a wine from the Alsace region, for instance a Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Gris.

Chervil is a very delicate herb. Its taste is like anise, but much more refined. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing the chervil to be overall present. Chervil looses it’s taste almost immediately when heated, so one to be used in cold dishes.

Honey can easily ruin a salad. (And sugar will always ruin a salad.) In this case we use only a touch of honey to create an environment for the sweetness of the white asparagus. The honey should act as a trigger.

The salad is a great example of the complexity of white asparagus: you will taste the sweetness and the freshness of white asparagus. The mouth feel of the salad is very nice, because the asparagus will be both juicy and crispy, with the chervil, honey and vinegar in a supporting role.

After having mixed the salad you will notice that the asparagus and chervil absorb the dressing. During the time in the refrigerator the asparagus will loose some juices, which is actually the beginning of a great dressing.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 White Asparagus per person
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
  • Lots of Chervil
  • Touch of Honey
  • White Pepper

Steam the asparagus for 10 minutes. Let cool. Dry with kitchen paper if needed. Prepare a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar. Chop the chervil and add to the dressing. Add a touch of honey and stir well. Add some white pepper. Taste the dressing: it should be a balance, meaning that none of the ingredients is overly present. Now slice the asparagus in nice chunks, let’s say 3 centimetres long. Mix, cover and transfer to the refrigerator for 6 hours. Mix the salad every two hours. Check the taste after 4 hours, you may want to adjust. Mix the dressing just before serving.

 

 

A Classic For You

White asparagus with Egg, Ham, Parsley and Butter

White asparagus is such a great vegetable! In this recipe we describe the classic way of serving asparagus. This way you will be able to taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus. The butter and egg bring a feeling of velvet to your palate, which is ideal to taste the asparagus. The parsley and white pepper give a touch of sharpness to the dish.

Serve the white asparagus with a dry Muscat from the Elzas. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with white asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. When drinking it is if you’re tasting the original grape. Wonderful wine and wonderful combination.
We recently combined the asparagus with a Riesling (2015, Trocken, Meulenhof) from the German Mosel region. Worked very well.

Here is what you need:

  • 3 or 5 White Asparagus per person
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 gram Ham
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

Cook the white asparagus and cook or steam the eggs medium, making sure the yolk is not set but also not running. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs warm on a plate. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat) and butter; sprinkle the parsley over the plate. Add some white pepper.
As an alternative warm the butter and pour it gently over the asparagus.

White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley
White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley

Last Week’s Special

We enjoyed this dish as a starter when in Milan, on a beautiful evening, eating al fresco and enjoying the wonderful combination of the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus, the slightly caramelised sugars as a result of grilling the asparagus and the salty and sweet cheese. A glass of Pinot Grigio was all we wanted. In Milan they served us green asparagus, but it works even better with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish you would make when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer. You could drink a Pinot Grigio, a Muscat from the Alsace region or a Rose with character. Remember the wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavours in the dish.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

Peel the asparagus and cook or steam until slightly tender. Depending on the size we would say 10-15 minutes in the Russel Hobss steamer. Leave and let cool. Take a plate, add some oil to the plate and use it to cover the asparagus in oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very good olive oil.