Just like with green asparagus, break the stem at the natural break point by bending the stem toward the bottom; the tough part will naturally snap off). Then cut each stalk to even out the ends. Peel the lower stems carefully with a vegetable peeler. (Do not peel the bud ends.) Save the ends and peels for the poaching liquid.
Put the asparagus ends and peels in a large pot and cover with 2 liters of boiling water. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt and the juice of half a lemon to the broth and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Strain the broth and reheat, bringing it back to a medium boil.
Now gently add the asparagus to the boiling water and boil for 5 to 10 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the thickness and age of the vegetable.) The asparagus is ready when you can slightly bend the ends of the stem with a fork or metal tongs. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus as it gets unpleasantly stringy; it should remain firm. When the spears are done, move them to a colander and drain off the excess cooking liquid.
Present the asparagus on a large platter and top with melted unsalted butter, thinly sliced smoked Speck or other European smoked or cured ham (Prosciutto or imported Black Forest ham), shavings of Parmesan and a sprinkle of minced chives. Serve with the boiled and peeled potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste
Pair with crisp Austrian Grüner Veltliner.