White Asparagus with Orange Butter


White asparagus, which is grown without sunlight, to keep it from becoming green, is the preferred form for the vegetable in Europe. This recipe makes an excellent first course, with the mildly nutty flavor of the asparagus pleasantly offset by the citrus.


  • 7 large oranges

  • 2 pounds white asparagus, trimmed and peeled

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • Leaves from 4 stems fresh tarragon


  1. Juice 5 oranges over a sieve, yielding about 1 1/2 cups. Zest 1 orange. Using a paring knife, remove skin, pith, and outer membrane from remaining orange. Carefully cut each segment away from white membranes. (This is called supreming the orange). Set segments aside.

  2. Place asparagus in a large saute pan. Add 1/2 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, and steam asparagus to tenderize, about 8 minutes. Just before asparagus are fully cooked, drain liquid from the saute pan. Add 1/4 cup orange juice, and simmer until the asparagus are fork-tender. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and steam while finishing sauce.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 1 1/4 cups orange juice to a boil. Add vinegar, lower heat, and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat, and stir in butter, one piece at a time, until sauce is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer asparagus to a warm platter, drizzle with sauce, and garnish with reserved orange segments, zest, and tarragon.

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