Although many people know Alice B. Toklas Cookbook for its infamous hashish fudge, as a young cook I found the book to be a treasure. Wonderfully written, with evocative detail about Alice B. Toklas’ and Gertrude Stein’s culinary life in France during World War II, I loved reading about a real cook’s experience and found a number of truly great recipes in it. Somehow I missed the recipe for asparagus dressed with salted and peppered whipped cream until I read an adaptation at Food 52. They adapted it from Greene on Greens by Bert Greene. Now I’ve adapted it further.
I also went to the source, sure that the way it was written would be way more compelling than Food 52’s recipe (at bottom). Madame Loubet’s Asparagus Tips definitely is: “a gastronomic feast. And a thing of beauty.”
My own approach is a hybrid of the two recipes that uses slightly less butter and cream. The basic gist is so simple that reading through the recipes will inspire your own approach.
Sally’s Hybrid Alice B. Toklas Asparagus in Salt and Pepper Whipped Cream
Up to 1 hour before cooking the asparagus whip about 1/2 cup of heavy cream to soft peaks, beating in 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Leave uncovered it in the fridge until ready to use.
Steam about 2 pounds trimmed, peeled asparagus in a small amount of water in a big skillet. When they are crisp tender, drain the residual water, return the asparagus to the pan and add 2 to 3 tablespoons each of butter and cream. Roll the asparagus around in the mixture, then transfer them to a heated platter. Spoon the whipped cream over the asparagus and serve immediately. Sublime.
Alice B. Toklas’ Asparagus in Salt & Pepper Whipped Cream from Food 52 via Greene on Greens
About 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 250º F. Cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water, or steam, until just tender. Place the drained asparagus in a shallow serving dish, and keep it warm in the oven. (Asparagus may be blanched ahead of time and reheated in a warm oven, if desired.)
In a small saucepan, heat the butter with 1/4 cup heavy cream over low heat. Stir and pour over the asparagus; return the asparagus to the oven.
Beat the remaining 3/4 cup cream with the salt and pepper until soft peaks form. Spoon over the hot asparagus. Serve immediately.