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Petites Feuilletées aux Asperges, Sauce Beurre, aux Citron
(Asparagus Tips in Puff Pastry, Lemon Butter Sauce)

by Elizabeth Norcross

“You can do it in less time than it takes to cook asparagus” – old Roman proverb

Three days of March sun and my asparagus is pushing through the soil . How glorious! What’s better than asparagus and it’s so prolific. It grow in pastures, gardens or along the side of the road. Asparagus is a ‘power’ food filled with vitamins A, C and B’s, tryptophan, phosphates, potassium, good for cardiovascular, building bones and rumor has it. libido too. All this with only 40 calories. Asparagus can shoot up seven inches a day once it gets going. Although you can’t harvest it for the first three years. There are as many recipes as there are types. This feuilletee recipe I used non-stop when I had a catering business, Le Petit Oiseau in Boston. It was a huge hit, simple to make, quick and elegant with fabulous flavor. Choose asparagus that has good color with the tips tightly closed.

To prepare asparagus first snap off the bottoms, if they don’t snap and are woody, it means they are past their prime. Peel the shoots and place in a rack in large pot with a a couple of inches of  boiling salted water below or in a proper steamer for two or three minutes, depending on the size, until crisp-tender .Remove from the pot and place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and refresh. Set aside on a towel.

Petites Feuilletees aux Asperge, Citron au Beurre

18-24 fresh asparagus spears (depending on size)
2 –3 Tbls butter and 1 Tbls shallots or scallions
6 puff pastry rectangles about 2 1/2 by 5 by 1/4 inches
Egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water)

Lemon Butter Sauce

2 Tbls fresh lemon juice
3 Tbls dry white French vermouth
salt and white pepper
1 stick chilled butter cut into 12 fingertip-size pieces

Cooking asparagus -

In one or two inches of roiling salted water add asparagus that has been
cleaned (ends snapped and shoots scraped)and steam for two minutes.
Remove from stove to bowl of ice water to stop cooking and refresh
they should be bright green and crisp .
Cut the tip ends of the spears into 5-inch lengths,
save the rest for salad.

When ready to put assemble with pastry melt 2 or 3 tablespoons butter in
a frying pan large enough to hold tips in one layer, shaking pan to roll
and coat with butter; season with salt and pepper.

Puff Pastry

Does anyone still make their own puff pastry? This recipe, with frozen puff
pastry takes about ten minutes to make – so I’ll assume we’re using a great gourmet pastry, Wolfgang Puck or something.

Preheat the oven to 450*. About 15 minutes before serving, arrange the pastries
(still frozen if you like) on a baking sheet and paint the tops with egg glaze, then
a second coat and make decorative knife cuts and crosshatchings in the surface.
Immediately bake in the middle level of your oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until
toasty, puffy and beautiful. Be careful not to overcook.

If you’re having drinks before dinner, it can be left to sit in the turned off oven
with the door ajar, take those extra minutes into consideration to avoid over
cooking the pastry. The sooner served the better it will be.

While still hot, split the pastries in half horizontally, arrange 3 or 4 hot and buttery
asparagus spears on the bottom half, their tips peeking out one of the ends, spoon
a bit of the following sauce over the asparagus, cover with the top and serve
toute de suite.

Sauce Beurre au Citron
(Lemon Butter Sauce)

An informal beurre blanc, this amazing little sauce takes less than five minutes
to make. However it doesn’t sit well, it needs immediate attention.

Boil the lemon juice, vermouth and 1/4 teaspoon salt slowly in a small saucepan
until liquid has reduced to about one tablespoon. Then a piece or two at a time,
start beating in the chilled pieces of butter, adding another piece or two just
as the previous pieces have almost melted – the object here is to force it’s milk
solids to hold in creamy suspension as the butter warms and softens, so that the sauce
remains ivory colored rather than just looking like melted butter. Season with salt and

It can be held over the faint heat of a pilot light or anywhere warm enough to
keep the butter from congealing, but not so warm as to turn the sauce into
melted butter. However, if this Does happen, you can bring it back by beating
over cold water until it begins to congeal and cream again.

Sauce #2 Jacque Pepin

This is another version of the sauce by Jacques Pepin:

Bring 2 Tablespoons each of lemon juice and water to the boil and rapidly beat in one stick of butter in pieces; bring the sauce to the boil again quickly, pour into serving pitcher and serve at once. It produces the same effect of a
warm creamy liaison of butter rather than melted.

I wonder if it would be realistic to give a fast puff pastry recipe. This is a luxe ten-minute meal with pre-prepared pastry. Do people make their own puff pastry anymore?

A simple salad of dressed Bibb lettuce with mandarin oranges, and a raspberry
vinaigrette is lovely with a nice dry French Bordeaux rounding  the meal out nicely.

Salade Framboise

Small tin of mandarin oranges
Bib lettuce
Raspberry Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil
1 cup fresh raspberries washed, or 10 oz. frozen raspberries defrosted

Mix lemon juice, salt, and oil in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Put raspberries in a
bowl in a sieve to drain. Puree by mashing them against the side of the
sieve with a wooden spoon or smooth stone. Discard the seeds and pulp
and mix the raspberry puree with an equal part of the vinaigrette dressing.

Roast asparagus is one of the simplest and most delicious ways to have this vegetable.  Baked in the oven  briefly w/ oil drizzled over and seasoned with salt and pepper it’s succulent and delicious bringing to mind the story “The Luncheon” by Somerset Maugham.

When he was a young pauvre artiste in a Parisian atelier he received a letter from an admirer, saying how much she liked his book; could they meet;  would he take her to lunch at Foyot’s when she was passing through Paris. W.S.Maughm wasn’t so good at saying no to women at that stage in his life, he was young and inexperienced in the
ways of the world. He was, therefore taken aback when she turned out to be much older than expected, forty at least, “with more teeth than were necessary for any practical purpose“.  Mr. Maugham was very nervous about his finances, meagre as they were, meant to last him for the month. She breezily chattered on about how she only ever ate one thing for lunch, so he let his breath out. Until she ordered the salmon which was out of season. Then the caviar.  Panic seized him. All the while scolding him for eating too much meat, casting her eye at his measly  mutton chop, lamenting, (and giving him false hope) “I never eat more than one thing at lunch” she reiterated again as she ordered champagne.

Then came the roast asparagus, so enormous, succulent and appetizing just the aroma made his mouth water. There’s one thing I thoroughly believe in,” she said,  “One should always get up from a meal feeling one could eat a little more.” Maintaining his chivalry to the end,  he watching as she tucked into the beautifully rose-blushed out -of -season peach before moving on to ice cream and coffee.  He managed to get them out of there with three francs for the waiter and no money for himself for the rest of the month, she nagged until the end.

Many years later they met up again, and although he said he meant her no ill-will (who’s more acerbic than W.S. Maughm?) “But I have had my revenge at last” he said. “ I do not believe I am a vindictive man, but when the immortal gods take a hand in the matter it is pardonable to observe the result with complacency. Today she weighs three hundred pounds.”

Roast Asparagus
1 lb. asparagus
3 Tbls olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400*. Snap the bottoms off the ends and lay in a glass
dish, drizzling the oil over the asparagus. Sprinkle the minced garlic over and
season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes depending on size.
The large asparagus roasts nicely and has a marvelous texture and flavor.
Sprinkle with lemon and freshly ground pepper. Mangez! Eat!

Bon Appétit~