Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The noble spear of the Sun King

“(Louis XIV) was graceful, dignified and awe-inspiring, if humourless.”


Louis XIV became king of France in 1643 at the age of 5 on the death of his father.  He ruled with an iron fist for 72 years.
Louis XIV grew into a handsome young man in good health.  He was seen as a strong king . . .  he was an excellent huntsman as well as an unabashed womanizer.   However, he took his position as king very seriously.  He wanted the best for France and demanded nothing less than absolute royal rule.

He was famous for the building of the Palace at Versailles and his association with the noble prisoner known only as “The Man in the Iron Mask”.  The identity of this prisoner has been a topic of debate amongst historians for centuries.  The prisoner was given special privileges the utmost respect - he was given fine linens, special meals and saw visitors by appointment.  No one ever saw his face, which was hidden by a mask of black velvet cloth.  A popular belief is that the masked prisoner was actually the twin brother of King Louis XIV, imprisoned because he was seen as a threat to the throne.   It was also suggested that he had been an English Lord or an Italian Count. 

King Louis was also well-known for his love of asparagus.  In the 16th Century, asparagus was very expensive and difficult to obtain.  Louis so enjoyed this delicacy that he ordered special greenhouses built for a year-round supply.

Asparagus is low in calories, high in fiber and rich in iron.

Let me tie this all together for you . . .

King Louis ruled with an iron fist, had a prisoner in an iron mask and enjoyed iron rich vegetables . . .

That is all.


I love asparagus.  Now.  But as a kid all I remember of asparagus is the floppy, soggy stuff my mom used to dump from a can and cook to mush.   All I can say about that is . . . yuck.

Fresh asparagus is a whole other thing entirely . . . fresh, crisp and uniquely flavorful.  It’s so easy to prepare and readily available that I can’t imagine why someone would opt for the mass produced smooshy canned variety.  Asparagus is pricier then other vegetables but when it’s in season . . . February to June . . . it is affordable.

Asparagus is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen . . . it can be boiled, broiled, baked, steam and added to other recipes.  Personally, I like it best roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of coarse salt, a grind of fresh pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Simply place the spears in a large roasting or baking dish and cook in a pre-heated oven (400F) for about 25 minutes.
Before you cook your asparagus, you need to first rinse it off to remove any grit (it grows in sandy soil) and then you need to remove the woody stems which are rather tough and fibrous. Simply bend each spear until it breaks at its natural breaking point. Using the breaking method will make sure that you end up with nice tender spears of asparagus without any waste.

To revive limp asparagus, try placing them in a tall pot with ice water in the refrigerator for thirty minutes.


Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

•           1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears
•           Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
•           6 slices thick center cut bacon
•           Fresh ground pepper
•           Hot Paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the asparagus by rinsing them thoroughly to remove any sand and grit.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Break the woody ends off by holding it gently on both ends & bending, the asparagus will break at the right point. You'll find that you lose more of the stalk with thicker asparagus than with the young thin spears

Lightly coat asparagus spears in extra-virgin olive oil.  Take a quick count of the spear tips. Divide the total number by six. Gather that number of spears and use a slice of bacon to wrap the bundle and secure the spears together.

Sprinkle the wrapped spears with a few grinds of black pepper and paprika.

Place the bundles on slotted broiler pan or on wire rack set into a baking sheet.  Bake 12 minutes.

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