Asparagus -- queen of spring vegetables

Asparagus is very versatile, finding its way into creamy soups, chilled with a tangy vinaigrette for salad, or teamed with chicken and tarragon in a delicately flavored main dish.

This recipe is from an excellent book, ''Cooking With Vegetables,'' by Marika Hanbury Tenison (Jonathan Cape, London $16.95). Asparagus With Chicken and Tarragon 2 chicken breasts 1 pound asparagus Salt and white pepper 1 onion, peeled, chopped 1 carrot, peeled, chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1 bay leaf 1 ounce butter 1 tablespoon flour 1/2 pint strong chicken stock 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1/4 pint heavy cream 2 egg yolks 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Trim asparagus to remove all rough fibers. Cook in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain well.

Place chicken breasts with skin removed in chicken stock, season with salt and pepper; add onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf.

Bring gently to boil and poach chicken over low heat, about 15 minutes or until just cooked. Drain off stock, discard vegetables and bay leaf, and cool.

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour, mix well, then gradually blend in reserved stock, stirring constantly until sauce is thick and smooth and comes to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, mix in tarragon and lemon juice and simmer 3 minutes.

Cut chicken into thin, matchstick strips and mix into sauce. Beat egg yolks with cream, add and stir gently over low heat until sauce is satiny. Do not boil.

Arrange asparagus on heated dish and add chicken and tarragon sauce. Serves 4 .

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