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White Asparagus with a Creamy Mascarpone Tofu Sauce
White asparagus is one of those ingredients that conjures certain images in my head. I start to think about white table cloths, creamy chicken liver pate, Kobe beef sold by the ounce and butter poached lobsters. Nearly, everything on the menu is sourced from a farm, sustainably fished or raised in a natural environment. I guess the word is “fancy”. High end, fine dining, skilled chefs and not just a meal, but an experience. However, these days white asparagus is not that hard to find. Most local grocery stores carry this on a regular basis, sometimes in the organic food section. It does carry a decent price tag because it is labor intensive, but so does green asparagus as well. What exactly is white asparagus?
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White asparagus is the result of asparagus that is grown without sunlight. The pigment chlorophyll is a requirement for photosynthesis to occur. When plants interact with the sun, chlorophyll is responsible for the green color that we see. So, in the case of white asparagus, farmers intentionally grow the vegetable beneath the soil and harvest while it is still dark. They are still very similar to their green counterparts. As a low-calorie food, they contain antioxidant properties, B vitamins, calcium, vitamin K, essential minerals and folate. White asparagus does have a tough outer skin that requires peeling. Once cooked, it has a natural sweetness and superior tenderness. It pairs well with lemon, cheeses and most commonly hollandaise sauce. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is the perfect starter for a memorable dinner at home.
Cooking the White Asparagus
Trim and peel thick asparagus skin near base with a peeler. Heat a medium pot of boiling water, about 2 quarts or enough water to cover the asparagus. Add 4 grams (1 teaspoon) salt, then cook asparagus till tender. Approximately 8-10 minutes.
Prepare an ice bath while waiting.
Remove asparagus from heat, drain and shock in an ice bath for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat 1 quart of boiling water in a small pot. Add tofu and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove tofu from water and press between paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Blend tofu, sugar, 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon salt), mascarpone and dashi stock (see recipe).
Cut asparagus into 1″ or 1.5″ pieces and stack on the plate. Spoon the tofu sauce over the asparagus. Garnish with pink peppercorns and lemon zest. This dish will pair well with chicken nanbanzuke and steamed rice for a complete meal.
Is this dish vegetarian?
The answer is both yes and no. For the most part it is a vegetarian dish with a slight amount of dashi stock to thin out the sauce. Dashi stock is used in countless recipes for vegetarian applications in Japanese cuisine. In combination with dried kombu, it is considered the very essence of what some people refer to as umami. If you are on a very strict vegetarian diet or have a fish allergy, substitute with vegetable stock or water.
Follow Chris on Instagram @chefmasado.