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There are several types of sauce for asparagus, ranging from very light to very heavy in taste. For fresh asparagus in which the flavor of the vegetable is intended to come through, simple butter, olive oil and lemon, or vegetable stock and pepper sauces can be used. If a more moderate flavor is desired, then there are many creamy asparagus sauces that can be made using grated Parmesan, fontina cheese, ricotta cheese or cream. To achieve a very heavy taste that can go with a substantial entree, there is Hollandaise sauce, bacon and bechamel sauce, or garlic and mayonnaise sauce. A robust sauce for asparagus can be made by mixing mustard and peppers with a roux, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with garlic and ginger, or Worcestershire sauce with hot sauce and melted butter.
Choosing the best sauce for asparagus really is about knowing how the asparagus will be cooked and what foods will be served alongside it. There is a certain undertone of bitterness in asparagus when it is lightly cooked and fresh, but it can be tempered by a simple lemon butter sauce. Similarly, olive oil that is gently heated with some garlic and a few red pepper flakes can dress the asparagus while letting its pure taste come through. If the asparagus is being served at room temperature or as part of a larger assortment of vegetables, then a basic oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressing can be used to provide a little flavor without dramatically changing the character of the vegetable.
A sauce for asparagus that has been well cooked or that is cooked from a frozen state usually is a little more substantial to blend well with the strong asparagus flavor that can occur. For an Italian preparation, a simple tomato sauce spiced with basil and oregano may work well. A cream sauce for asparagus can be made with milk, flour and a little butter. The same type of sauce can be made a little sharper with the addition of grated Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese or fontina cheese. The cream can be replaced with ricotta cheese, and some sauteed onions can be added to complete the flavor.
Some heavy sauces for asparagus will help the vegetable complement roasted meats or thickly sauced entrees. One option is to make a Hollandaise sauce from beaten egg yolks and butter that will coat the spears. Another heavy sauce can be made with flour and milk that is combined with crisped bacon or pancetta. Mayonnaise mixed with grated garlic and a little stone-ground mustard can go well with some spicy, grilled foods.
@Scrbblchick -- That sounds like a great recipe. I'll have to try it. I have a butter sauce that uses melted butter, lemon juice and zest and wholegrain mustard. I use it on asparagus and any green vegetables I'm roasting in the oven. It's easy, too.
I melt the butter, then add the lemon juice and zest and mustard and whisk it all together, then add a little salt and black pepper. I roast the veggies for about 10 minutes, drizzle the sauce over them, then roast an additional 5 to 10 minutes. That's a super easy sauce too, that has the advantage of pairing well with nearly every vegetable. I've used it with asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions and I don't remember what all. It's good.
I was completely intimidated by a hollandaise sauce until I found Julia Child's blender hollandaise sauce online. It's so easy, and very, very reliable.
I have a horror of doing everything you have to do with hollandaise sauce on top of the stove and then having it break. Nightmare scenario. But the blender version was so, so easy. You just melt the butter, and then blend your egg yolks and lemon juice and zest in the blender. When the butter is melted, you turn the blender on and drizzle the butter in slowly, through the small hole in the top, until it's all blended. Add a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper and that's it! Some cooks also add a tablespoon of hot water to the sauce after the butter is blended in.
It works every time. Great sauce.
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