Asparagus mimosa is France’s sunny, eggy ode to spring

Come spring, who can’t relate to asparagus?

It hibernates all winter — the “crown” and its roots lurking underground — and only when the soil warms and the light changes does it send shoots upward until they poke through the surface and start stretching toward the sun, painting the brown garden in shades of green and purple. Sunlight is crucial: The chlorophyll that gives most asparagus its green color converts the sun’s energy into sustenance. (White asparagus is such because growers keep it in the dark, covered with mulch or soil.)

A fresh start as the days lengthen: This defines the promise of spring, for us as much as for asparagus and other vegetables. We put the darkness behind us — or try to, anyway — and reach for the light.

Get the recipe: Asparagus Mimosa

In the kitchen, asparagus shines in the spring, especially when paired with eggs, one of its favorite partners. Is it just because both are so plentiful this time of year, when hens who slowed down or even stopped laying have resumed their output? The dishes that use the two together seem innumerable, perhaps because they include the classic and the new, the tried-and-true and the why-not. There’s asparagus hollandaise, asparagus frittata, even just asparagus with scrambled or fried or poached eggs. Every spring, I gorge on the spears, roasting, steaming and sauteing until I get my fill, which usually doesn’t happen until they’re no longer available.

My friend and fellow food writer David Lebovitz is also a fan, and in Paris, where he lives, asparagus fills the farmers markets every year around this time. He’s been excited to see more green spears rather than so much of the white (which, as he says, is only good when it’s super-fresh). Lebovitz is not one to mince words, and when I emailed him recently about a classic French asparagus-and-eggs preparation, he quickly shot back: “I love asparagus mimosa and I think it’s the best way to serve asparagus.”

If you’re not familiar with the dish already, let me set one thing straight: Asparagus mimosa doesn’t have anything to do with champagne and orange juice, although that would be a fine accompaniment. Instead, it gets its name from the way sieved (or grated or finely chopped) egg yolks on a backdrop of whites evoke mimosa flowers. Such poetry!

Perhaps more importantly, it’s downright delicious. And it’s pretty simple, all the better to showcase the flavors of its starring ingredients. The asparagus is lightly cooked (steamed or blanched), bathed in a vinaigrette and topped with the egg whites and then yolks, traditionally in a wide band across the spears. It’s an ideal brunch dish, on its own with some bread, or as a side to a main course of your choosing.

Lebovitz has an excellent recipe on his website, but the spirit of asparagus mimosa is that you can make it fairly off the cuff, using your favorite vinaigrette. To save a little time (and to cut down on pots and bowls), I like to steam the asparagus and eggs together, pulling out the asparagus first and plunging it into an ice bath to protect that hard-won green color and keep it from getting too soft, then doing the same with the eggs before peeling them. My preferred method for the eggs is to swipe them across the fine side of a Microplane box grater, which creates the fluffiest piles with little effort.

The dish is best eaten immediately to appreciate the combination of textures, and that, too, seems in the spirit of the season. As much as we might wish otherwise, spring slips away as quickly as it arrives, year after year.

Get the recipe: Asparagus Mimosa

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