White Asparagus and Fennel Butter

White asparagus with compound fennel butter.

I must be missing NYC these days.  There are loads of recipes on how to cook white asparagus but the one that caught my eye was the one from Prune restaurant in the East Village.  My first thought was "Oh my gosh, it's still there".  Bits of NYC establishments are slowly being erased from when I knew it due to rent increase.  I get a pang in my heart when I read about any old haunts of mine closed down to be replaced by global retail or supermarket chains.  So happy to see that Prune is alive and kicking. 

Watch Martha Stewart and chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune restaurant making this delicious asparagus starter.

White Asparagus and Fennel Butter

INGREDIENTS//serves 2-3

• 1 bunch fresh white asparagus
• 1 lemon, divided (zest in compound butter and juice for asparagus)


• 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
• 1 whole fennel, finely sliced (including fronds, chopped)
• Lemon zest
• Pinch of salt
• Dash of pastis liquor


To prepare your asparagus, snap off the stems where it naturally breaks and peel off the tough skin.

Prepare the lemon zest using a microplane or a flat or box grater with fine holes.  Then use the remainder of the lemon for juice you'll add into the pot of boiling water to cook the asparagus.  Save some juice to be squeezed just before serving the dish.

I don't have an asparagus cooker/steamer so I bundle the asparagus together with parcel string and I cook it in a pot.  Tie the parcel string around the bottom of the bunch of asparagus and tie further up to hold the asparagus in place so that it tries to stand.  To keep the asparagus in place and standing in the pot, brace it with two long skewers through the bundle of asparagus (cross through the bundle with a skewer forming an "X"). 

In a pot, add about 4 inches of water or enough so that the base of the asparagus will be covered.   Squeeze lemon juice and add salt to the water.  Bring it to a boil.

Add the asparagus and cover with a lid for about 30 minutes.  Make sure the asparagus is nice and soft and that the tips are steamed. 

Strain the asparagus, let it cool and serve on a plate with shavings of the fennel butter.  Drizzle some olive oil for extra delicious fat and salt to taste with a squeeze of lemon.


Finely slice your fennel and chop up the fronds. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and caramelize your fennel for about 30 minutes on medium heat letting the natural sugars come out on its own.  During this time add whole of lemon zest to the fennel and add the fronds. Then add some salt and pepper.

When caramelized, splash a dash of pastis liquor and ignite it.  When the flame burns out let the fennel cool down. 

After cooling, in a food processor add your fennel and chop it down until fine.  Then take the rest of your softened butter and add in chunks at a time. 

Remove butter compound mixture from bowl and spoon onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll into a log.  Put it in the freezer until ready to use in a plastic ziplock bag to keep it airtight.  Use a mandoline or the large hole-side of a box grater for butter shavings.