Surprise your taste buds with a recipe from Alice B. Toklas
Whipped cream tends to stay offstage until dessert time, when the sweets come out. But why? We know that cream partners well with salt and pepper. And many savory foods depend on it (think creamy mashed potatoes or luscious quiche).
So we’ve decided to let whipped cream step out early, dressed in savory seasoning–and chaperoned by asparagus.
Asparagus is elegant by nature, of course. But whipped cream brings out its playful side.
Recipe: Asparagus with Savory Whipped Cream
We found this recipe in Bert Greene’s Green on Greens. He, in turn, found it in The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.
Toklas recreated this dish after tasting it at Madame Loubet’s small restaurant in Grignan, a town in southeastern France. It was served as a separate course in a four-course meal that Toklas shared with her partner, Gertrude Stein, and some friends. Did Madame Loubet create this recipe on her own, or did she learn it from someone else? Who knows!
You can use any style of cooked asparagus for this dish. We blanch ours in simmering water ahead of time, then reheat it right before serving. But you could also steam or roast it.
Prep and cooking time for this recipe is 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe yields 4 servings. You won’t have any leftovers, trust us.
- ~1½ pounds asparagus (exact quantity not critical, but aim for about 1 pound of asparagus when trimmed)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (for flavoring the blanching water)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick)
- 1 cup heavy (or double) cream, divided
- additional ¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt for flavoring the whipped cream (to taste; see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Cook the asparagus ahead of time (if you prefer to cook it right before serving, see Notes): Cut (or snap) off the less tender butt end of each asparagus spear (we remove about a third). Peel the asparagus if you wish (we rarely do). Fill a large frying pan halfway with water (use a 12-inch frying pan if you have one, otherwise 10-inch). Bring the water to a simmer. Add a tablespoon of salt, then add the asparagus. Cook until done—about 5 or 6 minutes. The asparagus is done when it’s tender, but still just a bit firm.
- While the asparagus is cooking, pour several cups of ice into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water. When the asparagus is done, remove it from the frying pan with tongs and submerge it in the iced water. Chill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, then remove it from the water and drain it on a kitchen towel. If you plan to serve the asparagus within the next 3 hours, keep it at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the dish.
- When ready to finish the dish, place the butter and ¼ cup of cream in a large frying pan. Place the pan over moderately low stovetop heat.
- While the pan is heating (and the butter is melting), whip the remaining ¾ cup of cream. (We prefer to use a stand mixer for this, but a hand mixer or wire whisk works well too). When the cream reaches the soft-peak stage, add salt and pepper to taste. Continue whipping until the cream reaches the stage of firmness you prefer (for us, that’s just beyond soft peak.) Do note that, at this stage, the whipped cream will taste rather salty; it will taste less salty when added to the asparagus. See Notes.
- After the butter has melted, add the asparagus (Step 2) to the frying pan. Cook over low heat until the asparagus is just cooked through (keep the butter/cream mixture just below a simmer). Roll the asparagus spears in the butter/cream mixture so that each is nicely coated.
- Remove the asparagus from the pan and arrange it on serving plates (with all the tips facing in the same direction). Garnish with the whipped cream, and serve.
- In Britain, “double” cream is what we in the US call “heavy” cream.
- Toklas’s original recipe calls for using asparagus tips (which would mean cutting off half of each asparagus spear, or perhaps a bit more). It’s not necessary to remove that much, in our opinion, unless your asparagus is extremely thick and woody (which it rarely is early in the spring).
- As noted in Step 4 of the Procedure, the whipped cream will taste a bit salty when you sample it straight from the bowl. But after you add the seasoned whipped cream to the asparagus (and the heat of the asparagus begins to melt the whipped cream), it should taste just right. If in doubt, underseason the whipped cream; you can always add more seasoning at table.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only about half as much as we suggest.
- With that said, always season to your own taste. Toklas’s original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon table salt—way too much in our opinion.
- Toklas didn’t include black pepper in her recipe—that’s Greene’s addition, and a darn good one.
- We haven’t tried it, but wonder if a pinch of cayenne pepper might be another fun addition to the whipped cream.
- BTW, homemade whipped cream isn’t particularly fragile; you can whip it an hour or two ahead of time if necessary. Just refrigerate it in a covered container until ready to use.
- We like to cook the asparagus ahead of time when we make this recipe, then immediately chill it in iced water to stop the cooking and preserve the color. This makes final assembly of the dish a snap. If you prefer to cook the asparagus right before serving, just cook it as you normally would, and omit the chilling step.
- Alice B. Toklas was the life partner of writer Gertrude Stein. They met in Paris in 1907, when they were both in their early 30s.
- Toklas wrote two cookbooks. Her first, The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, was published in 1954. It’s half memoir, half recipes (and it’s a fun read). This cookbook contained her famous recipe for “haschich fudge” (which later morphed into cannabis brownies). Toklas noted that the fudge recipe “might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club.” Can’t argue with that. Toklas’s second cookbook, Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present, appeared in 1958.
“Asparagus is asparagus is asparagus,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Except when it’s even better, like in this dish.”
“Are you going full Gertrude Stein today?” I said.
“Could be,” said Mrs K R. “This Alice B. Toklas recipe has inspired me to whip out some bon mots.”
“But it hasn’t cured you of punning,” I said. “Maybe Alice should crack the whip.”
“Worry not,” said Mrs K R. “With this dish as muse, my puns will be cream of the crop.”
“Just like this asparagus,” I said. “And to think I whipped up this charmer in a trice.”
“You seem to be whipping it away just as quickly,” said Mrs K R. “Your plate looks scrupulously clean.”
True. You might say there’s no there there.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad
Asparagus and Spinach Salad
Edamame and Bean Salad
Kale and Cabbage Gratin
Celery Root and Potato Gratin
Or check out the index for more recipes
Whipped cream on asparagus...what a novel idea! You are right, John, we are so used to having whipped cream with desserts that we do not investigate using it other places. You have inspired me! Thanks for sharing this :) Pat
Hi Pat, isn't this fun? And SO tasty. Once you try it, you'll be hooked. Which is a good thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Two of my absolute favorites -- it must be good! Brilliant, John.
Oh this is so so so fun! Asparagus is already a much loved vegetable in my house. This would take it to the highest level!!
We are certainly on the same page today! Love my asparagus and this is creative genius! Savory whipped cream - amazing - I am absolutely going to try this! Thank you John.
Ah, this makes me want to 'whip' out my Alice B. Toklas Cookbook again and try some of her recipes. I love reading about the Stein/Toklas relationship! I have never thought about using whipped cream in a savoury dish- sounds sort of 'Picasso-esque' to me!
What an elegant new dish! Great idea and it might even get the little ones to try asparagus. Savory whipped cream? Love it, John!
Hi Judy, isn't this nice? And SO different! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ansh, we love asparagus too -- always look forward to it in the spring. And the whipped cream adds a ton of flavor and fun to the dish! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, it's definitely asparagus season! And this whipped cream is wonderful -- and you can use it with so many things. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, I just reread her first cookbook (don't have the second), and there are some really interesting recipes in there. She was a great cook! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, savory whipped cream is wonderful! We've been using it on everything. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Be still my heart! I can't believe I used to hate asparagus but then I can't believe my mom never served it fresh either!
This I HAVE to try; sounds fantastic John!
I've never thought to make a savory whipped cream before. Awesome idea and recipe, John!
We were talking about asparagus the other night and how good it is. I never thought about serving it with whipped cream. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful, healthy, and delicious... Spring has a new chaperone!!!
Hi Barb, this really is an outstanding recipe -- one of the best we've done in quite some time. Savory whipped cream is the cat's meow. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, this is truly good stuff. You'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi SG, savory whipped cream is a real treat! You'll love it with asparagus. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, isn't this great? Such a fun -- and tasty! -- recipe. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Salty whipping cream :) wait till my kids hear about that. I bet they will go crazy for the ides. Loved it really brilliant John.
Never thought cream and asparagus could be a good combination! Thanks for the inspiration...Will definitely try it out!
I "felt" my eyes pop out of my head when I read the title of this post, John. Asparagus with Savory Whipped Cream sounds like a dream come true! I would be inclined to save a dollop of that whip cream unseasoned and bake up a batch of those brownies for dessert!
Would you believe I don't have a copy of the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. I've been meaning to remedy the situation but I just never seem to get to it:)
As much as I adore this recipe John, I must tell you the "sweet talk" between Mrs. K.R. and yourself is the icing on the whipped cream:)
Thanks for sharing, John...
Hi Amira, kids of all ages will love this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Camelmirror, it's a surprising combo, isn't it? But it SO works! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, it'd be interesting to try some of this with those brownies! You should get your hands on this cookbook -- several really good recipes, and a lot of interesting tidbits about Toklas's life with Stein. Glad you enjoyed the sweet talk, btw -- those are always so much fun to write! Thanks for the comment.
I have never thought to make a savoury whipped cream! Your asparagus looks so deliciously green too.
Thanks so much for sharing
Hi John, love this savory spin on whipped cream, who knew. Looks like it's going to be a banner asparagus year, beautiful dish.
Love this John! How simply delicious! Why have I never thought to use whipped cream in a savory way before? Going to give this a whirl next time I have asparagus! : )
I love Asparagus and this recipe sounds amazingly delicious. Can't wait to try this out :-)
Hi Julie, isn't this a neat idea? You'll love it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, you need to grab your savory spoon and spoon up some of this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, we were delighted when we found this! And couldn't figure out why we had never thought of it either. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kushi, this really is a wonderful recipe. SO much flavor! Thanks for the comment.
This is such a clever idea! My mom LOVES asparagus and her birthday is coming up, I think I know what the side veggie dish will be on her plate :-)
I would never have thought to use a savory whipped cream, but it does make sense and looks completely delicious.
Hi Evelyne, I predict your mom is going to be very, very happy on her birthday. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, isn't this such a fun idea? It makes so much sense, but I'd have never thought of it either! Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely little dish. I adore asparagus and with the addition of whipped cream, well, this must be exceptional. While living in the UK I learned to love unsweetened and usually unwhipped heavy cream poured over my dessert. This will be a whole new way to love cream as if I needed one. ;)
Asparagus and WHIPPED CREAM??!?!! Oh that's definitely a NEW pairing in my mind!
What a great pairing, John! I never would have thought to do it on my own but, now that I see it, I cannot think why the dish isn't much more common. Although it's still a bit early for our local asparagus to sprout, asparagus from you southern states is popping up and that's fine with me. I love the green spears and am in heaven this time of every year. Thanks for sharing another great dish, John. :)
Hi Karen, we really don't need new ways of enjoying cream, do we? Glad to know this one, though! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, it's weird, but it's SO good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi John, I'd never have thought of this either, and now that I do, like you don't know why it's not more common. It's just excellent. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a lovely Spring dish! Didn't know that we eat asparagus with whipped cream. Thanks for this great tip!
Sigh... spring is in the air in your neck of the woods, which means we are heading into the cooler months... lovely recipe, John! Thanks.
Hi Zoe, isn't this a fun dish? Such lovely flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, we're both in the best months, IMO -- I love the transitions from winter to summer, and summer to winter. The two best cooking times of the year! :-) Thanks for the comment.
It' my first time to encounter savory whipped cream. I usually have it for dessert.
How fun! Savory shipped topping to dip your asparagus in. This might be the new way to get kids to eat the green stuff on their plates. Outstanding photography with eye popping colors and perfect lighting. Do you shoot in natural or artificial light John?
What a wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing John. And yay for asparagus season. I'm in charge of a side dish for our Easter dinner and I've just found it. Pinning.
Such a literary offering today. I love the sounds of that savory whipped cream! Happy St. Paddy's Day!
Hi Peachy, we've always had whipped cream for dessert before we started making this dish. Now we're having it with veggies all the time! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bam, I shoot in artificial light -- in my basement! I wish I had a good, convenient source of natural light, but don't, alas. Isn't the green of the asparagus great? I love to blanch it, then chill it, just because it turns out so pretty. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, people are going to be SO glad you were in charge of the side dish this Easter. :-) Thanks for the ocmment.
Hi Debra, Happy St. Paddy's Day! And the literary stuff just seemed a natural. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Thanks for citing the Toklas cookbook. It's iconic. I think it's high time to revive hash fudge. The whipped cream and asparagus idea is brilliant, and I agree with your thought about cayenne. Or maybe other spices as well. Maybe a touch of powdered ginger.
Asparagus is one of my fave veggies. I always look forward its appearance in spring. I never would have thought to enjoy it with savory whipped cream! But heck, whipped cream on anything is good. ;)
Oh my...love the whipped cream use in a savory dish! Never would have thought to do that!
What an interesting recipe! I love asparagus but rarely cook it because no matter how well I wash it, I always end up with sand. Yuck! Any tips on how to clean it perfectly?
Hi Jeff, the ginger idea sounds interesting. One could do a LOT with savory whipped cream. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, whipped cream on anything really IS good, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, isn't this a fun idea? And SO good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, I usually don't have much problem with sandy asparagus. Lucky, I guess! Anyway, I rinse it under running water -- seems to clean it pretty well. If your asparagus is sandy, I might soak it for a few minutes, maybe changing the water once or twice. Thanks for the comment.
A lovely and elegant dish--thank you. What did you serve it with? --Rocquie
Hi Rocquie, we've had this with ham and grilled chicken, but it'd go pretty well with most proteins, I'd think. Looking forward to trying it with shrimp! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi John , you are so creative , not only with cocktails , this dish is a must make . I am pinning . Thanks for sharing Nee :)
What a wonderful and unique way to serve asparagus! Sounds fabulous!
Hi Nee, you'll definitely love this dish! Loads of fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Chris, this really is fabulous. And so easy! Thanks for the comment.
Asparagus is one of my favorite things about Spring and this unique dish is something to celebrate. I might just surprise everyone with this at Easter! Thanks for a great recipe, John :) Happy Friday!
Hi Robyn, we love asparagus too! This really is an outstanding dish -- totally worth trying. Enjoy! :-) Thansk for the comment.
I love asparagus. Is that weird? :P
This dish is too simple but too yummy.
Alice B. Toklas was a great person! Her cookbook is fun.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Love, love asparagus! It would not have occurred to me to use sweet cream but, you are right...Why not!!! Asparagus can stand to be a little more playful, and this is perfect. Thank you for sharing.
Hi Lux, asparagus is such good stuff! And you're right this dish is too yummy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, Alice B. Toklas is so interesting, isn't she? Thanks for the coomment.
Hi Velvea, we did a triple take when we first saw this recipe. But it's so logical when you stop and think about it! Thanks for the comment.
OMG, this is such a nice combination...I absolutely love the idea of savory whipped cream...very inspirational John!
Have a wonderful weekend :)
Hi Juliana, this is a fun dish, isn't it? :-) Delish, too! Thanks for the comment.
I'm pretty sure there'd be no there there on my plate either. I love asparagus, and love the idea of serving it this way!
Hi Beth, isn't this such an interesting idea? It's become one of our favorite ways to serve asparagus! Thanks for the comment.
Happy first Spring Day John ,
Put a spring post up to remind everyone to hop over to Louise to say Happy Birthday to Marion . See you later ... Nee :)
Hi Nee, Happy Spring! And thanks for the reminder -- off to Louise's right now!
Oh John, this is such a wonderful recipe for spring! I will definitely being making this! Gorgeous!
Hi Marcelle, isn't this nice? Such a tasty (and fun!) recipe. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've read her "cookbook" and it's fascinating. It's an autobiography as as much as it is a cookbook. It's hard to imagine (and I guess it takes a true artist to articulate it) how universal the idea is that food and social interaction are intertwined. GREG
Hi Greg, it's not really a true cookbook is it? Although it has an awful lot of recipes in it, some extremely good. It's the perfect book for those that like to read cookbooks for entertainment! Thanks for the comment.
When I first saw the picture I thought the whipped cream was mayonnaise. It took me back to my childhood when asparagus came from a can with a dollop of mayonnaise on top. The mayo was the best part because there is nothing quite as disgusting than canned asparagus. :) When I came to NM I had fresh asparagus for the first time and it was like eating something new. The whipped cream on top sounds quite interesting but what I like the most is heating the cooked asparagus in the butter and cream with shallots. That alone sounds awesome, so the extra cream must make this a fabulous dish! Thanks John!
Hi MJ, fresh mayo is awfully good with fresh asparagus, isn't it? Can't understand the canned stuff -- the flavor is really terrible! Thanks for the comment.
Now this is a good idea, it makes life easier, instead of making hollandaise sauce this is a perfect easy alternative
Sounds like the perfect side dish! Popping up from culinaryflavors.gr.
Hi Raymund, this is much easier to make than Hollandaise, isn't it? Quicker, too -- always a win. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Katerina, this is so good! Definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I believe that we have eaten asparagus five of the last seven days. While roasting is my favorite way of preparing asparagus, I need a change. This one hits the mark.
Forgot to mention that Greene on Greens is a favorite cookbook. AS much fun to read as it is to cook from.
Hi Rosemary, roasting is our favorite way of eating asparagus (or many) veggies, too. Great stuff, isn't it? You can use the savory whipped cream with roast asparagus, but I think this method of preparing works better for the whipped cream. Thanks for the ocmment.
Hi Rosemary, that's a wonderful cookbook, isn't it? He's a super writer and better cook. I've made dozens of his recipes over the years, and they're all good. :-)
Sounds like a great way to use whipped cream, I have never thought of using it in a savory dish. I love the asparagus and whipped cream combination.
Absolutely LOVING the savoury whipped cream here John. Methinks I'll have to try it! Such a simple and delicious looking dish.
Hi Dawn, savory whipped cream is the bee's knees. :-) You'll love it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amanda, isn't this great? So simple, so good. My kinda dish! Thanks for the comment.
Asparagus is my favourite vegetable. Unfortunately we don't often see it here. This is such a great combination and definitely one most of us would think of. The only other savoury dish I've had whipped cream on was in a Czech tenderloin stew -- so delicious. Thanks for sharing, John!
Hi Nancy, we haven't had savory whipped cream before we tried it with this dish. Wonderful, isn't it? Bummer you don't often see asparagus. :-( Thanks for the comment.
We always have asparagus in our fridge. I think I try so many different ways to enjoy asparagus but I've never seen one with whipped cream! I learned something new and fun today. It's such a simple dish that I won't pass this idea! Looking forward to giving this a try. My kids will be surprised. ;)
Hi Nami, always fun to surprise kids, isn't it? We surprised ourselves with this dish! But then, we're just big kids. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Shut the front door.... YARM! Asparagus is far too expensive for me at the moment, but later in the year when it is back in season, sooooooo trying this. Love the whipped cream topper, very clever.
Hi Anna, isn't that whipped cream idea wonderful? SO good! Thanks for the comment.
Oh my gosh, this is brilliant! Why have I never thought of savory whipped cream? Of course it's going to be delicious, especially topping buttery asparagus. I cannot wait to try it. What a delicious way to celebrate spring. Thank you!
Hi Hannah, isn't this great? You won't believe how good this is! Thanks for the comment.
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