A white dish with asparagus, Bearnaise sauce and gravlax.
Photography, Kayla Rocca

Grilled Asparagus with Béarnaise and Gravlax

Chef Albert Ponzo from the Royal Hotel shares his elegant recipe for this classic spring asparagus dish.

This is how Chef Albert Ponzo rings in asparagus season at The Royal Hotel in Picton, Ontario.  This elegant recipe showcases his priorities – and his savvy. Gravlax (a traditional Nordic dish of salmon cured in salt, sugar and lots of dill, sometimes with added ingredients like juniper berries or aquavit) comes together with freshly-grilled asparagus and a rich béarnaise drizzle.

A white dish with asparagus, Bearnaise sauce and gravlax.

Grilled Asparagus with Béarnaise and Gravlax

Chef Albert Ponzo from the Royal Hotel in Picton, Ont. shares his elegant recipe for asparagus with a Béarnaise sauce and gravlax.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Scandinavian
Servings 8


Béarnaise Sauce

  • ¼ cup hollandaise reduction
  • 6 egg yolks
  • cup warm clarified butter see tip
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp salt approx
  • pinch cayenne
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • tsp chopped tarragon

Grilled Asparagus with Béarnaise and Gravlax

  • 8 to 12 pieces of asparagus depending on thickness
  • 5 tsp olive oil divided
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 65 g salmon gravlax
  • ¼ cup béarnaise sauce
  • cups packed watercress
  • lemon wedge


Hollandaise reduction

  • In small saucepan, bring ¼ cup water, ¼ cup white-wine vinegar, ¼ cup white wine, 3 peppercorns, 2 sprigs tarragon and 1 thinly sliced shallot to a boil until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain.

Béarnaise Sauce

  • Whisk egg yolks and hollandaise reduction in large heatproof bowl set over pot of gently simmering (not boiling) water until mixture reaches the ribbon stage and expands in volume.
  • Remove bowl; slowly drizzle in butter, whisking constantly. Attention needs to be paid to the temperature—it should be warm but not too hot or the mixture will split and not too cool or the egg mixture could seize. Return bowl to simmering water and whisk if it needs a bit of warmth.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne and lemon juice to taste. If béarnaise is too thick, a little tepid water can be whisked in to thin it out, or add some reduction for more zip. Stir in herbs. The béarnaise should be kept in a warm spot until ready for use.
  • Grill asparagus on preheated barbecue over high heat until slightly charred, about 2 minutes. Toss in bowl with 3 tsp of the olive oil and the salt.
  • Arrange asparagus on platter; top with gravlax and spoon over béarnaise.
  • In bowl, toss watercress with remaining 2 tsp olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Arrange over asparagus.


To make 1¾ cup clarified butter, place 2 cups cubed unsalted butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat without stirring, skimming any foam from the surface. Remove from heat and allow milk solids to sink to bottom; pour out clarified butter, leaving the solids in the pan. Why use it? Removing and separating the milk solids (proteins) stabilizes butter, creating burn-resistant fat with a very long shelf life.
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