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During our last trip to Ireland we met a nice young couple making their way to Dublin (hitch-hiking, buses and on foot) after spending the summer working on an asparagus farm. Emmi is from Finland and Brett’s a constant world traveler originally from San Francisco. They travel around the world working on farms through a program that matches farmers (hosts) with workers interested in staying a few days, weeks, or even months. The hosts in Ireland are mainly pursuing a simple, sustainable lifestyle and I imagine they sell their produce to local restaurants and markets. The hosts provide food and accommodations and the helpers get their hands dirty tending animals, picking crops, plowing, providing childcare, or whatever needs to be done. The program is referred to as Woofing (WWOOF) World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
It had started raining so we stopped and gave Brett and Emmi a ride to Killarney. We were fascinated with these free spirits, and had such a good time together they joined us for dinner. We all met once again several days later in Doolin for more fantastic food and great Irish music in Gus O’Connor’s pub. Now we keep up with their adventures via Facebook.
We have a small asparagus garden at home and are in our 3rd year since planting. They say a good asparagus garden can last up to 20 years. Experts discourage picking until the third year so the plants have a chance to strengthen and develop good roots. We have fingers crossed for a terrific harvest this year but until then, I found these fresh spring stalks in our local grocery store and could not wait another day! They were on sale too – bonus!
We are big fans of oven roasted asparagus but love it steamed or sautéed too. For this simple vegetable I made an elegant, and rich, Hollandaise Sauce. Hollandaise is very simple to make but requires a good 10-15 minutes of constant whisking.
Egg yolks are whisked in a heatproof bowl set over a hot pan of water while butter is added one piece at a time. Once it melts another piece is added and so on. The sauce thickens slowly and then finished with fresh lemon juice to perk up the rich buttery taste. Classic Hollandaise sauce is wonderful served over poached eggs, Canadian bacon and english muffins (Eggs Benedict) or with spinach in lieu of the meat (Eggs Florentine.)
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Spring Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
- 20 spears of asparagus
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons cold water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into ½ tablespoon size pieces
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- dash of sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- Place a saucepan with about one inch of water over medium heat until ready to boil. Reduce the heat to LOW. Place a stainless steel bowl over the top of the pot taking care the it does not touch the water. If you have a double boiler this would will great.
- Add the egg yolks to the bowl and whisk in the cold water. Whisking constantly, start adding the butter, one piece at a time. Whisk until the butter melts, then add the next piece. Keep whisking until all butter is gone. Add a dash of salt and the lemon juice and remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside.
- Steam, boil or roast the asparagus. Drain well and serve with the Hollandaise on top. Garnish with fresh ground pepper and lemon wedges.
- If the eggs start to "scramble" remove from the heat and add 1/2 teaspoon cold water. If the sauce does not thicken, turn up the heat just a little bit and keep whisking.
Are you ready to run off to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day and work on an asparagus farm, drink cold beer in a pub and listen to great Irish music? Yup, me too! Have a wonderful week and thanks so much for stopping by.