Imagine the day, long ago before the early 1800's, when these green shoots appeared in southern markets and Creole cooks held them in awe, some toying with the idea as these being oversize fern fronds, or even sparrow's grass as some referred to it. A delicacy only the wealthy could afford, some feared these spears as the berries are very poisonous. In the finer restaurants, folks ordered Pointes d'Asperges au Beurre, or as we would say, asparagus tips in butter... and probably hawked full dinner courses upwards of a three Liberty head double eagle, one of New Orleans Mint's better coins.
I spotted these spears in a market and grab a bunch knowing all along what I was gonna do. It's unusual to see these pretties this small during late summer, I saw these babies were from Peru and that's just fine with me. This is a side dish we enjoy very early in the spring or when the shoots are small and slender, meaning extraordinarily tender. Other times of the year we slice the shoots in quarter-inch thick slices horizontally the whole length of the spear. Quick cooking is the key which is why I like to steam them but a quick boil will do just fine.
These asparagus spears are exceptional paired with grilled steaks, roasted cuts of meat and many seafood dishes as well. The finished sauce has a slightly noticeable level of heat, with just enough tartness to round out the savory sweetness. Enjoy!
Piquant Creole Asparagus
|oops, forgot the bread crumbs|
1/3 cup of soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
2 slices of bacon, diced
1 small garlic clove
1 Tabasco or hot red pepper
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 1/2 pounds of asparagus
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
In small skillet, brown crumbs in the butter, set aside.
In same skillet, cook bacon with garlic and pepper until bacon is crisp and brown. About half way through cooking bacon, add the red bell pepper.
Meanwhile, steam asparagus over boiling salted water until crisp tender. Remove and put in a hot serving dish.
Remove garlic and hot pepper from skillet, add vinegar and sugar. Heat mixture, stir to dissolve sugar and pour over asparagus. Toss spears and sprinkle the top with buttered crumbs.
Note: You can always add a good dash of Creole seasoning or cayenne if you do not have a Tabasco or hot pepper.