11 May, 2010

Stormy weather.

Spring in France means smooth-skinned asparagus stalks of sharpest green, but also the more subtle white, and the rose and pale purple too. If I happen to find chopstick thin asparagus, I'll eat them raw with swirl of garlic-laced olive oil and a splash of lemon. I prefer to boil or steam medium-sized asparagus (snapping off the ends at least an inch and peeling first) until crisp-tender, about ten minutes. After biting one to be sure they're done, I'll dunk them in an ice bath to stop the cooking then dry them gently in a clean dishtowel. Finally, the kitchen fireworks. I'll toss them in a creamy cloud of intensely tarragon-inflected wowness--and yes, that's a technical word, used only in cases of outrageous, call-your-best-friend-and-crow deliciousness.
Whipped crème fraîche is what gives this dressing its signature unctuous yet light texture, and regular sour cream just makes for a sorry substitute. Making your own crème fraîche is child's play (and cheap!), as seen in this video demonstration by John Mitzewich.

If you eat your asparagus (or other vegetables) this way I promise spring will be in your heart--even with an ominously dark rainstorm on the evening horizon. (Note: the actual prepared dish--which I ate while staring out the open window--was devoured before I thought to point the camera at my plate instead of the sky. Head in the clouds, you know...)
Sauce a l'estragon (Tarragon & Crème Fraîche Dressing)

Makes enough sauce for four to six servings.

3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (flavored with tarragon, if possible)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon (1/2 tablespoon if you must use dried tarragon)
1-2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice
finely chopped zest of one lime or lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, whip the crème fraîche lightly with a small whisk or fork. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Taste and adjust flavors according to degree of pungency desired. Toss with steamed and cooled asparagus.

You will be missed, dear Lena (1917-2010).


  1. Oh that white asparagus is gorgeous. Sadly, the best asparagus has already come and gone in my neighborhood.

  2. I know, Rose. Almost too pretty to eat! Here in France, we've had a delayed spring, on the heels of a delayed winter.


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