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by Kelly Snowden

In spring markets become accented with color as ramps, peas and rhubarb flood the stands – all perfect for spring menus. Chefs only have a certain window in which to use the highest-quality ingredients that guarantee a standout meal, so they should make use of the short season of local produce. One way is to create inventive tasting menus with each course showcasing the same produce, as Chef John Besh of Restaurant August in New Orleans has done here with white asparagus. » more

Chef John Besh of Restaurant August - New Orleans, LA
Cherokee Purple Tomato Terrine with White Asparagus Soup

Salad of White Asparagus and Smoked Foie Gras with Cherries and Summer Truffles

Lobster Tortelli with Lamb Sweetbreads and White Asparagus Ragout

Beef Tenderloin with Niman Ranch Lardo over Roasted Jumbo White Asparagus and Glazed Shallots

White Asparagus and Rhubarb Cobbler with Buttermilk Ice

White asparagus are grown from the same seeds as the green. The color difference comes from mounds of dirt that are piled around the white as they grow, keeping sunlight out and stopping the production of chlorophyll. The season usually begins in April and ends by June. Asparagus have been cultivated for centuries, with the oldest cookbook on record including a way to cook the ingredient.

Throughout Chef Besh’s five-course tasting menu he highlights the mild and sometimes nutty taste of white asparagus, including dessert. Marrying the flavor of the asparagus with the other flavors on the plate is critical for this type of menu. Too much asparagus in each course can tire the palate, but just enough lends the courses a subtle continuity that helps the flavors build upon one another.

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   Published: May 2006