White Asparagus with Butter and Chives, cooking white asparagus

White asparagus is much more common here than green. Big, fat white spears are preferred and what one sees in the supermarkets.

Green asparagus has to be searched out from the few local farmers who grow it. White asparagus is everywhere.

Occasionally, I can also find violet asparagus, which is slim, white asparagus with a purple tip.

Our preferences are green, then the violet. I’ve had white asparagus that was wonderful but I’ve never managed it myself. I try from time to time, but it always ends up a bit tough and stringy.

This year our favorite farmer ran out of green asparagus early in the season.

It was time to try my hand at white again. I elbowed my way into the crowd by the basket of white asparagus and pretended I knew what I was doing. I made my selection, went home and did the next logical thing….. Consulted Julia Child.

According to her, she, and her cohorts tested all possible ways to cook asparagus and found none that worked better then the traditional French method: boil it.

Boil it?

I’ve steamed, fried, braised, roasted and grilled asparagus…. But boil it?


I’ll boil it.

Not surprisingly, Julia was right.

The recipe, White Asparagus with Butter and Chives, has been updated, nutrition information added, and re-posted here: White Asparagus, Butter & Chives.

Julia Child suggested peeling with a knife and taking about 1/16th of an inch off. I used a vegetable peeler, but did use it rather aggressively.

Don’t ‘snap’ off the ends like you do green asparagus. White asparagus tends to be brittle and snaps easily, having nothing to do with the woody ends. Trying to snap it off will waste a lot and peeling makes almost the entire spear tender. Slice the ends off, and continue making thin slices until the ends look moist and fresh. My spears were 10 – 11 inches long and I took off less than an inch.

Cooking time will vary according to thickness, but peeled asparagus cooks faster than unpeeled. Test it so as not to overcook….. But do cook sufficiently.

I fried it lightly in butter for a few minutes to add both flavor and color.

We have been converted.

Next time: Hollandaise!

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6 thoughts on “White Asparagus with Butter and Chives, cooking white asparagus”

  1. Maybe this is a shame on me moment, but I’ve always boiled my asparagus. I do it in a large frying pan with just enough water to cover them. I don’t have an asparagus pot so at least that way, they’re all laying on their sides and not flopping about. When done, I toss them with the butter/garlic mixture. I’m a Julia Child protege because I never knew! huh

  2. Most of the green asparagus we get is from Spain, but I agree that the green stuff is a little easier to handle. Your post reminded me that when I first learned to cook white asparagus (from Les Recettes Faciles de Françoise Bernard), the directions were, indeed, to boil it. I just bought some a few days back and steamed it, and I ended up with a lot of stringy-ness.

  3. Green is what we get here and I also boil mine with water to cover in a frying pan. I have taken note on how to treat the white version because as from next year I will have to use that until I can track down the producers of green in our corner of France.

  4. It is the reverse in Australia – white is rare, green is everywhere. So far in Morocco I have seen green but only the once !

  5. nightsmusic, I often fix green asparagus that way, but the pot full of water really worked better for the really fat white ones

    Betty, we buy the Spanish green occasionally, but it’s never as good as the local green. I was amazed at how well the boiling worked for the white. I’m a convert!

    Gill, does that mean you’re going to be here longer or full-time?

    Kate, that’s how it is in the US, too. And when there is white, it’s skinny, little spears, not like here

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