Thursday, March 7, 2013

Asparagus cuit à l'anglaise

For dinner this evening I had steamed Canadian asparagus for the first time this spring. It was from Ontario, so I can't exactly call it local, but at least it had a smaller carbon footprint than the asparagus imported from South America in the dead of winter.

My favourite way to prepare asparagus is simply steaming it. (Tonight it was a side to a cross between spaghetti carbonara and this recipe.) Although you can dress it in Julia Child's Hollandaise sauce, I think less is more. If you just steam it turns bright green and you have a crisp delicious springtime vegetable.

Ever since reading French Women Don't Get Fat (I was curious to learn if I had an inherent biological advantage), I am always reminded of Mireille Guiliano's annecdote about how asparagus was white when she was a child in France--apparently they were grown in the dark!

As I was checking the spears to see if they were ready, I was reminded of a phrase my mum sometimes says.

cuit à l'anglaise (kwee ah long-glaze) : literally, cooked in the English style

Cuisiner à l'anglaise means simply to boil (and boil and boil again) in salt water. In my family though, it seemed to have more meaning. My grand-maman would used the phrase to mean vegetables that were too hard because they were insufficiently cooked to her taste. I always assumed it was also a dig at English cooking and that it had a connotation of French/English tensions (especially historically in Canada) and that cooking the French way was the right way. But maybe I'm reading too much into the expression.

My asparagus tonight was a little cuit à l'anglaise because I forgot to set a timer (it typically takes 8 minutes or less). But that's okay because there is little less appetizing limp, mushy asparagus.

(Photo by Esteban Cavrico via 10:10)

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