Apicius 4.2.6 Another Patina of Asparagus

Let’s start with 3.3 Asparagus.

Dry the asparagus, put it upright in hot water.

 That’s the instructions for basic cooked asparagus. I didnt change a word from the translation.

No call for salt, no call for anything other than the simplest boiled asparagus.


From there, I went to my target recipe, 4.2.6, which calls for the trim and snipped ends from the asparagus cooked by recipe 3.3

Using the trim from the vegetable, pound in a mortar with the other ingredients, then strain.

Cook the liquid in an oiled dish, or add an egg to thicken, then use.


I do not have asparagus, it’s string bean season now. String beans are a distinctly modern vegetable, but I like them, I have them, and I consider them a not-unreasonable substitution for asparagus in current context, though not for historically minded service.

a mess of string beans, standing in for asparagus
lots of them.

I chose not to boil the string beans, as I strongly dislike them cooked that way.

After pan-searing them with a bit of red wine, I selected out a handful of cooked string beans, and put them with the rest of the ingredients (except sorrel, which I could not get in good condition) into a processor, and liquefied.

all items in the processor
mortar and pestle gives a different texture.

At this point the sauce was raw, the fresh onion made the liquid quite “hot”. It requires a bit of cooking to unify the flavors.

separating the liquid sauce and preparing to cook it for use
not yet cooked or thickened.

Instructions suggested cooking the sauce with an egg to add body, and serving it over chicken or fish.
To cook the sauce with the egg, at least from a modern kitchen perspective,  the egg must be “tempered”, or acclimated to the heat of the sauce so as not to curdle. To temper an egg, see the note below.

Recipe: Apicius 4.2.6 Another Patina of Asparagus


  • ¼ c cooked asparagus or tender green vegetables
  • ¼ c loosely packed lovage leaves
  • 1/8 c loosely packed cilantro, well picked
  • 1/8 c sorrel, not from a jar.
  • 1 fresh green onion, about the size of a golf ball
  • ¼ c red wine
  • slightly less than ¼ c liquamen (fish sauce, or in a pinch, somewhat less of soy or worcestershire)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place all items into a processor or mortar and pestle. Liquefy. Strain.
  2. Set aside solids for an application where they will add flavor, such as stuffing poultry.
  3. Cook liquid just enough to take out the rawness of the fresh onion, or
  4. use liquid as a cooking sauce or poaching liquid for delicate meats.


-Not the most evocative or memorable sauce

-not very pretty.

+highly seasonal

+extremely versatile

+ simple enough to make, can be good for a novice to practice on

+ can be prepared in advance and frozen well.

Quick notes

A cover  for the lack of Sorrel might be a bit of lemon peel or a squirt of lemon at the end

As a substitution for Lovage consider some celery leaf.

The recipe does state flexibility, mentioning greens, briony, wild herbs, and other such tender vegetables as alternatives to the asparagus.

Being presented as a dish of of a using up of leftovers to make a sauce for other things, only one of the small components is actually a second usage. In a high volume kitchen, this recipe does fill a hole, but for current menu planning it’s a little more of a unique thing.

After a straining, I used the solids to coat a chicken, and some of the strained sauce went to glaze a meatloaf.

Other of the sauce dressed the rest of the seared string beans.


a roast chicken which has been rubbed with the solids from the sauce before cooking
flattened chicken with the solids of the sauce.

To temper an egg, crack an egg, and whip it.

Heat the liquid portion of the sauce in a pot.

Remove about a teaspoon of hot liquid from the sauce, and place it into the bowl containing the egg,whip briskly until incorporated.

Continue adding heated sauce slowly, slowly raising the temperature of the eggs as you continue.
This allows the sauce to incorporate and warm the egg without scrambling.

Place the egg and sauce back in the pot over a very low flame and stir, do not allow it to curdle.

Should the sauce begin to set like an egg rather than a custard, strain before service. It can take practice.


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