This unusual appetizer was inspired by a marvelous dish we had at El Celler de Can Roca. I am not claiming it is a recreation of the dish, it was merely inspired by it. I liked my simpler version too, and from the use of fresh black truffle it’s still not that humble. I had never made asparagus ice cream before, so I was pretty happy with how this turned out. I’ll have to think of a good substitute for the truffle (suggestions are welcome), because it’s the white asparagus ice cream that really shines here and the price of fresh truffle would otherwise limit this to special occasions such as Christmas only.
For 4 servings as an appetizer
450 grams (1 pound) fresh white asparagus
3 egg yolks
250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream/whipping cream
20 grams (.7 oz) fresh black truffle
3 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
Wash the asparagus. Peel the asparagus, reserving the peels.
Cut the woody bottom 1 cm (1/2″) off each asparagus.
Put the asparagus peels and bottom ends in a saucepan and add the cream.
Scald the cream, i.e. heat it up to just not boiling (around 85C/185F) but do not let it boil as that will give an unpleasant ‘cooked’ flavor the the cream.
Turn off the heat just before it starts to boil. Let the peels steep in the cream off the heat for half an hour or so.
Meanwhile, slice the asparagus into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) slices. By slicing the asparagus, you are making sure that there won’t be any long fibers in the ice cream.
Cook the asparagus in a scant amount of boiling water, uncovered, with a pinch of salt for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Drain the asparagus, reserving the cooking liquid.
Simmer the cooking liquid down to a few tablespoons to concentrate the asparagus flavor.
Put the cooked asparagus in the blender together with the concentrated cooking liquid.
Blend until pureed completely.
Cobine 3 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan and whisk to blend.
Pass the asparagus puree through a sieve and add it to the egg yolks and sugar.
Add the cream infused with asparagus peels as well (by sieving out the peels). Whisk to blend.
Heat the asparagus custard to a temperature of 85C/185F, stirring continuously to prevent burning the bottom. Do not let it boil to prevent a ‘cooked’ flavor. The custard will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon as soon as it reaches 85C/185F.
Let the custard cool to room temperature. You can speed up this process by submerging the saucepan in (ice) cold water and stirring.
Cover the custard with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap down onto the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for some hours or until completely cooled to refrigerator temperature.
Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
You only need to churn it until it has frozen and is a homogeneous mixture. The next step is easier when the ice cream is not too hard.
Spread a third of the ice cream in a square or rectangular container suitable for freezing.
Add a layer of shaved or grated truffle.
Put a sheet of kitchen paper underneath the container to catch any spilled truffle and add it afterwards.
Repeat with another layer of ice cream, another layer of truffle, and a final layer of ice cream.
Cover and freeze for an hour to let it firm up.
When it’s time to serve, revert the container onto a cutting board. If the ice cream won’t come out, pour a bit of hot water on the outside to let it melt very slightly.
Unfortunately since this was in the middle of Christmas dinner, I forgot to take a picture of the inside with the nice layers of truffle.
Serve on a dark-colored cold plate, sprinkled with more grated or shaved truffle.
At El Celler de Can Roca this was outstanding with a slightly sweet and ‘fat’ German riesling. Unfortunately it may be difficult to find a good-quality slightly sweet riesling, as most of the good quality ones are dry. The sugar in the ice cream helps to bring out the flavor of the asparagus, but it makes it more difficult to pair.