It's a strange time of year, isn't it? One day it's 70 degrees and you're reveling in the balmy springtimeness of it all. The next day you're chipping ice off your car in order to open your doors. Another couple of days later it's 70 degrees again.
The asparagus isn't local. Ours won't come in until late April or so when springtime is a little more firmly established here. In the meantime I make do with asparagus shipped from some place warm.
If you go in for that sort of thing you can peel the asparagus. There's a camp which believes it improves the flavor of the asparagus and makes it more tender. I'm still trying to decide where I stand on the whole asparagus-stalk-peeling issue. This bunch was peeled -- a pretty tedious task -- but next time I probably won't, just for comparison's sake.
What I'd really like to do is eat nothing but asparagus tips. I have fantasies of growing my own asparagus and growing so much that I pick them with barely any stalk at all. Since I live in a downtown area and do all my vegetable gardening on a little 10 by 10 plot in a community garden this looks like it will be an unrealized fantasy.
I have to confess that I've never made hollandaise by hand. The blender seems easier and more likely to yield a succesful sauce. The whole double-boiler and constant whisking of making it the traditional way seems like a lot of trouble and I'm always sure that I'm going to have one of those sauce-making traumas where the sauce "breaks" and I'm left with something greasy and grainy, or even worse, curdled.
Making hollandaise sauce in the blender may be a little bit like riding a bike with training wheels but I'm OK with that.
Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
1 bunch asparagus, stalk peeling optional
8 tablespoons of butter
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
pinch of cayenne
1. Cook your asparagus in boiling salted water until it is crisp tender. The amount of time needed will vary depending on how thick your asparagus stalks are and what your definition of crisp tender is. I used thin asparagus and cooked them for just 60 seconds before draining them. I'm serious about the crisp in crisp-tender but you may want to cook yours a little longer. Set the asparagus aside.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
3. Meanwhile combine the remaining ingredients in the blender and blend briefly.
4. When the butter is bubbling merrily but has not yet started to color, turn the blender on and begin slowly adding the butter.
5. By the time you finish adding the butter the hollandaise should have thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings.
6. Pour the hollandaise over the asparagus and serve.
Note: Minced tarragon sprinkled over the top is a nice touch. Also, if you like poached eggs, you could serve them over the asparagus with hollandaise over everything.