Now there are always instructions to tie asparagus into neat bundles and steam them standing up. Well bundles are a good idea if you are cooking large numbers, and as for standing them up, how many people own a special steamer for asparagus? I usually cook 12 to 16 at a time so I let them float around in my roasting pan. The roasting pan, on an oval burner, is ideal. You can move the pan so most of the heat is concentrated to one side. (You can also do this with frying pan on a regular burner if you’re careful). Then you place the asparagus in the pan so their bases are over the heat and the tips are further away. The tips of white asparagus are more robust than green and the stalks are uniform, which makes them easier to cook.
Put the asparagus in the pan to make sure they fit in a single layer and cover with cold water. Remove the asparagus, add about 1 teaspoon of salt and a good pinch of sugar to the pan. Bring the water to a boil, add the asparagus, bases towards the heat and lower the heat so that the water simmers. No matter what you read you need to cook white asparagus longer than green, at least 15 and maybe 25 minutes. The fatter and the older they are the longer they’ll take to cook.
Test by piercing the base of the asparagus with a cake tester, or a fine skewer. You want them cooked NOT crunchy. You also don’t want them overcooked and mushy. Pay attention. Drain them well on a towel, to help absorb the water, and keep them warm if you plan to serve them hot. You can cook them ahead of time and reheat them in the oven.
Asparagus are often served cold with mayonnaise, or a vinaigrette. My friend Caroline makes a sauce with an egg yolk, mustard and crème fraîche, which she often “lightens” with a stiffly beaten egg white. I prefer them hot and I make a sauce maltaise, a variation on hollandaise with blood orange juice. The blood orange and white asparagus seasons overlap and they match brilliantly. This photo show another good mach for asparagus – scallops Here they are both served with a blood orange butter sauce. Just reduce the zest and juice of a blood orange down to a couple of tablespoons, add 1 tablespoon whipping cream and then whisk in about 100g of unsalted butter, making sure it emulsifies into the sauce and does not melt in.
Simmering asparagus is my main method for cooking this fabulous vegetable, but this spring I discovered another thanks to a dinner at Spring restaurant. More soon.
Well I hope you have leapt out of bed and gave your puff pastry two more rolls this morning. Now you are ready to make the galette.
If you follow this blog you will know that I have written about galette des rois before. So instead of recounting the history of this cake, this post is a practical how to make one, no need to buy the book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with RecipesIf you have the book the recipe is p 64.
First you need puff pastry. You’re probably tempted to buy it, thinking it was too hard to make, well don’t and you’re wrong. Puff pastry is simple it just take time and while you are waiting for the pastry you can make the filling, which must be made in advance and then go back to checking your Twitter feed.
You need a cool kitchen and a set of scales. Mix 250g / 83/4 oz flour with 1 teaspoon fine sea salt. Now weigh out the same amount of unsalted butter, then take about 30g / 1oz of the butter and rub it into the flour until mealy. Take 150ml / 2/3 cup of ice water, the advantage of living in Toronto in the winter, is that the water straight from the tap is ice cold, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the water and pour it over the flour mixture. Stir with a fork until the liquid is mixed in, then tip the mixture onto a cool surface.
Don’t be tempted to add more water even though it looks like you haven’t added enough.
Knead it, gathering up all the flour until, it forms a ball. Do this gently and it will come together in a couple of minutes. It should look something like this.
Cut a cross in the top of the dough, then wrap and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, attack the butter. place it between two sheets of parchment or was paper and beat it with a rolling pin, good for working out stress, until the butter is pliable. Shape it into a rough 15cm / 6in square. The reason for doing this is twofold: to shape the butter and have it the same consistency as the dough. Test the dough and the butter by pushing your finger into them, they should have the same consistency. If necessary, place the dough back into the refrigerator.
Rolling between the cross, roll out 4 flaps of dough, leaving the centre four times as thick as the flaps. Try to roll a rough square about 30cm / 12 in. Place the butter on top of the thicker dough centre, so it sits as a diamond on the square dough.
Tap the pastry square firmly with your rolling pin to seal the edges and flatten slightly.
Roll into a rectangle about 45×15 cm / 18×6 in trying to keep the edges of the pastry as straight as you can. Now fold the pastry into three, from the short end, as you would fold a letter, then turn the pastry 90 degrees so the open end is towards you. Tap the pastry with the rolling pin to seal and flatten.
Roll out again into a rectangle and fold into three. Press two fingers into the pastry to indicate that you have given it two turns. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While you are waiting you can make the filling for the galette. It is a frangipane, a rich almond filling that needs to be refrigerated overnight to firm up.
You need 100g / 31/2oz each of unsalted butter, caster (superfine) sugar and ground almonds, a pinch of fine sea salt, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon aged rum or Cognac. Place the butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until well mixed. Add the almonds, and flour and process to blend. Whisk the eggs, then set aside two tablespoons of egg mixture (this will be for the egg wash so cover ad refrigerate). Add the rum to the remaining egg mixture and pour over the almond mixture. Process until well mixed. It will resemble a batter, turn into a bowl, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Take your pastry out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature and roll it into a rectangle again, fold it and turn at as before, so giving it another two turns. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The puff pastry needs two more rollings before using. You could continue the rolling after letting it rest at least one hour, in the refrigerator, but you would have had to make the filling the day before.
So check back tomorrow (Epiphany) for part 2.