Asparagus with Mayonnaise

Recipe from 'Foolproof French Cookery’ by Raymond Blanc. Click here to purchase book. 

One of the truly great spring dishes. Asparagus is now available all year round but home grown is best, and the more local the better.  The UK season is very short, lasting from May until June.

This mayonnaise bears no resemblance to commercial products bearing the same name. The taste is full, with an edge of acidity and a delicate piquancy from the cayenne pepper. To help prevent the mayonnaise splitting, ensure that all the ingredients are at room temperature before you start. The reward for this simple creative act is enormous and you will never want to buy bottled mayonnaise again.

Main FFC Asparagus Dish

Ingredients Required

For the mayonnaise
2 Egg yolks, organic or free range
2 pinches Sea salt
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
300ml Groundnut oil or any good unscented oil
1/2 Lemon, juiced
For the asparagus
1kg English asparagus, medium thickness, woody stalks removed.
3 litres Water
2 tbsp Salt
2 pinches Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Method

Making the mayonnaise

If you are a masochist like me, use a bowl and balloon whist; otherwise a hand-held electric beater is fine. Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, salt and cayenne together in the bowl.  Gradually, at a slow trickle, whisk in the oil. The mixture will thicken and become a rich straw yellow. This early stage is the most delicate; it is important not to add the oil too fast or the sauce might curdle. (If this happens, put another egg yolk in a clean bowl and slowly whisk in the curdled sauce. When it has all been incorporated, continue with the rest of the oil).

The more oil you add, the thicker the sauce will become.  Halfway through, whisk in the lemon juice to thin it down, then continue adding the oil, more speedily now as the mayonnaise should be safe from curdling at this stage. Taste and correct the seasoning. If the mayonnaise is too thick, thin it down with about a tablespoon of warm water.  Refrigerate until required.

Preparing the asparagus

Cut off the woody lower part of the asparagus stems. In a large pan, bring the water to a galloping boil and add the salt.

Cooking the asparagus

Gently lower the asparagus into the rapidly boiling water, making sure that all the tips are on one side of the pan. Cover with a lid to bring the water back to the boil more quickly.  Remove the lid and cook for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus; it should be bright green and tender but still a little firm.

Serving the asparagus

Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and drain on a tea towel. You can serve it warm or cold. (If you prefer it cold, plunge it into a bowl of cold water to halt the cooking process and retain the colour and texture.) Arrange the asparagus on a large dish and season lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Serve the mayonnaise separately.

Foolproof French Cookery

Recipe from 'Foolproof French Cookery' by Raymond Blanc, published by BBC Worldwide Ltd. 

Click here to purchase book.

Recipe © Raymond Blanc 2002.

Photograph © Jean Cazals 2002.