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Asparagus season in France

Plate of boiled asparagus with beurre blanc sauce

With spring comes the sound of birds singing, daffodils and crocuses in bloom and trees beginning to leaf. These are all lovely, but for me the real start of spring is when asparagus arrives in our local French market.

In France, fruits and vegetables are mostly seasonal, so winter is not my favorite time of year. Potatoes and parsnips, anyone?  Sure, you might find blueberries in Paris, but only if you frequent the specialty shops. For most people, like where I live in Provence, what you eat is what’s in season.

That’s what makes the arrival of the first asparagus so exciting. It’s finally springtime! Asparagus not only heralds the start of spring, but also the beginning of a long series of new arrivals in the market. Next come strawberries, then a whole flood of goodies – cherries, melons, stone fruits, and on and on.

Even when the weather cools towards the end of the year, we can look forward to many varieties of mushroom and even the occasional truffle (if the pocketbook allows.) Then the dark days of winter finally arrive and then it’s back to potatoes and parsnips and the wait for the glorious days of asparagus.

If you are like me and love those tender asparagus shoots, here’s a recipe for a delicious way to enjoy them:

Recipe for asparagus and a classic French Sauce

For 4 people

2 lb (900g) asparagus

Cook the asparagus

Fill a pan with water, large enough to lay the asparagus out flat and cover well. Bring the water to the boil, then add the asparagus and cook for 20 minutes.

Make the sauce while it’s cooking (see below).

Remove the asparagus, let it dry and lay on a plate.

Serve warm – either with sauce drizzled over or dip the asparagus in a pot of the delicious creamy sauce!

Beurre Blanc sauce

3 shallots
100ml (3.4 fl oz) dry white wine
2 tablespoons white vinegar
200g (7 oz) butter (room temperature)
Pinch of Salt

Peel the shallots and chop them very finely.

Pour the vinegar into a saucepan.

Add the shallots and bring to a boil and reduce until dry.

Deglaze with white wine.

Cut the butter into cubes.

Add half the butter to the saucepan and whisk to emulsify.

Add the rest of the butter and whisk.

Set aside off the heat then strain the sauce through a sieve .

Serve hot.

Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence.  He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in ProvenceRead more at Life in Provence.

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