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New Amsterdam asparagus

Two years ago, The Husband-Type Man got me The New York Cookbook, and it’s quickly become one of my all-time favorites. This recipe – and the included story – is taken from it.

Household manuals and "receipt" books from the pre-Revolutionary era often described "asparagus with good Holland butter and grated nutmeg/" About 20 years ago, the Netherlands Consulate General inNew York printed instructions for "How to East Asparagus the Dutch Way":

"Neatly stack drained and piping hot, fresh asparagus on an oval, napkin-covered serving dish. Surround them with halfved, hard boiled eggs (hot). Pass with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg and a creamy butter sauce.

"With a fork, mash a half egg on the dinner plate and, with seasoning and a helping of butter sauce, make a paste. Holding the fork in the right hand and an asparagus stalk in the left, dip the tip in the egg mixture; bring it to the mouth with the aid of the fork. Repeat this with the next section of the stalk. Leave the end of the stalk on the side of the plate, and continue with the next stalk. With some trial and error this can be done gracefully. According to Dutch etiquette, the use of a knife is taboo,"

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup tepid water
  • 4 eggs, hard-cooked and cooled
  • 2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  1. In a mixing bowel, beat the butter until creamy. Slowly add the water, drop by drop, beating as if making a mayonnaise. When the sauce becomes thick and creamy, set aside. Peel the eggs; set aside.
  2. Use butcher’s twine to tie the asparagus in a bundle. Bring 1 inch of water to a rapid boil in a tall pot. Stand the asparagus in the water, tips up, and cover the pot. Steam until tender, 2-5 minutes, depending on the size of the asparagus.
  3. Place the asparagus on a serving platter, cut the twine, and discard. Halve the eggs and place around the asparagus. Serve with the butter sauce and salt, as well as a pepper mill and a nutmeg grater, and follow the instructions above….

Serves 6