Posts Tagged ‘spring asparagus’

Spring Asparagus with Eggs and Linguine

May 2, 2017

Poached Eggs with Asparagus and Pasta

Last Saturday of April: local Farmers’ Market opens. Rain, bitter cold, fierce wind. . . Nevertheless, I’ve been waiting weeks for fresh eggs and hoping for first asparagus, so I’m early in line. With freezing fingers I fork over cash for precious pullet eggs, and tender purple asparagus. “What do you do with pullet eggs,” asks my friend who opted for the large instead. In actual fact, pullet eggs may be the best eggs a hen will ever lay, and I buy as many as I can early in the season. The yolks are usually larger in comparison to the white; they are richer and very tasty. Pullet eggs are perfect for small batches where you might need half an egg. Children love them for their cuteness and they make perfect companions for an egg added here or there as a garnish.

With my treasures in tow, I set about an asparagus and egg supper. Cooking for one the pullet egg yolk will be perfect for a couple dollops of Hollandaise sauce, and two poached pullet eggs atop a swirl of linguine with fresh asparagus will be gorgeous. I’ll add a sprinkle of shaved Parmesan or some diced smoked ham and send a drift of garden chives over the top. The rain continued to beat down as darkness fell, but I found Spring on my plate.

A little note on Hollandaise Sauce: remember this is an emulsion of egg yolk and butter. The yolk is whisked with a little water in a heatproof glass bowl and warmed over a simmering bath. Once the egg yolk is warm and still liquid (take care not to let it get so hot it scrambles) whisk in butter a slice at a time. The butter will melt and thicken with the egg yolk. Once the thick sauce comes together, season with a few drops of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and thin with a little hot water if needed. There it is in just a few minutes, elegant sauce.

Asparagus with Linguine, Poached Eggs and Hollandaise

8 oz. fresh asparagus, purple recommended

2 oz. linguine or spaghetti

3 pullet eggs

1 teaspoon water

1 ½ tablespoons good butter

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

salt to taste

2 tablespoons diced smoked ham and/or shaved Parmesan

olive oil

Fresh chives or parsley

Trim asparagus and diagonally slice into bite-sized lengths. Set large pot of water on to boil.

Make Hollandaise: Choose a small saucepan half filled with water that will hold a heatproof glass bowl on top. The bowl base should not touch the water underneath. Bring the water to a simmer. Slice butter onto a saucer. In the glass bowl whisk (a tiny whisk is good here) the pullet yolk with teaspoon water and place over the simmering saucepan. (Save the white for meringues.)   Stir the egg mixture as it heats. When it feels warm to your pinkie, begin to whisk in the butter a slice at a time. As the butter melts and is absorbed, the sauce will thicken. Remove the bowl from the water bath; season the sauce with lemon and salt. Set aside in a warm spot.

Generously add salt to the larger pot of boiling water. (The boiling water should taste as salty as seawater.) Add prepared asparagus to the rapidly boiling water and cook for 2-4 minutes depending on the size of the stalks. Once the asparagus is tender, fish it out with a Chinese spider or a slotted spoon. Hold in a warm bowl. Add linguine to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile break each of the remaining two pullet eggs into small cups, and warm the diced ham in a little butter or oil in a small skillet. Once the pasta is cooked fish it out with the spider, a strainer or slotted spoon, add to the warm bowl of asparagus. Drain any excess water and toss with a little olive oil. Swirl the boiling water with a spoon and drop in the eggs. Reduce the boil to a simmer and poach the small eggs about 2 minutes. As the eggs cook, mound the asparagus and linguine on a warm plate. Sprinkle with ham and/or Parmesan. Lift the cooked eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel before setting atop the asparagus and pasta. Lighten the Hollandaise with a teaspoon of the boiling cooking water and spoon the luscious sauce over the eggs and pasta. Sprinkle with chopped chives.   The best Spring Supper for One.

 

 

Asparagus Carbonara

May 22, 2012

Long before foraging became fashionable and wild ingredients took star billing on prestige restaurant menus, collecting wild edibles outside wasn’t talked about. Few pesticides littered the fields and fencerows in early spring. Wind scattered seeds, birds ate berries and dropped seeds on ditch banks under telephone lines. We wilted dandelion leaves with hot vinegar and bacon for spring salads, cooked pigweed like spinach, and collected mountain serviceberries for blueberry pancakes, but asparagus that grew along the ditch banks was the best of all foraged foods.

On the dry irrigated western farmland, mountain snow melt rushed into the rivers, filled the canals and trickled into shovel- cleaned ditches when the ditch rider turned head gates to release water allotments that would make the land bloom. Asparagus loves water, and the perennial roots living deep in the soil sprang to life with the spring flow, bolted and blossomed when the pickers tired and fell to the summer scythe blade after the birds had their fill. Several decades ago agricultural controllers decided that weeds along the ditch banks were a problem; they sprayed Roundup, cemented the channels, and most of the wild asparagus is gone.

Thankfully asparagus still thrives, cultivated throughout the country and readily available in farmers’ markets. Now is the time to feast on this prized vegetable; for the best flavor, asparagus needs to be selected in season and as close to its place of harvest as possible. Blanche it, steam it, roast it, grill it, season with a little butter, olive oil, garlic and some fresh herbs or twirl it into pasta with some bacon and eggs for Asparagus Carbonara.

Asparagus Carbonara

4-5 oz. thickly sliced bacon*, diced (1 cup)

½ large onion thinly sliced (1 cup)

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

1 lb. fresh asparagus diagonally sliced (see photo)

3 eggs, free range if possible

2 oz. light or heavy cream (1/4 cup)

1 ½ oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)

8 oz. dry fettuccine of linguine

salt, pepper, fresh mint and chive flowers or parsley

*This is a good place to splurge on sliced-to-order butcher shop slab bacon if it’s available.

Choose a flat-bottomed wok or a large frying pan. Add a few drops olive oil and gently sauté the bacon until fat is rendered and bacon golden but not crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and pour fat into small cup.

Return 2 tablespoons bacon fat to the frying pan or wok and gently sauté the onion until limp. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, cook a few seconds longer. Set aside.

Bring a 3 quarts water to a rolling boil, salt generously and quickly cook sliced asparagus 3 minutes. Remove asparagus with a spider or slotted spoon and spread out on a baking sheet. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for the recommended time.

Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper. Reheat onion in wok or skillet, add bacon and asparagus. Warm thoroughly and turn off heat. As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain it well and turn the hot pasta into the skillet or wok with bacon and asparagus. Toss to combine along with the egg mixture, adding the parmesan cheese. (The heat of the pasta and the asparagus will cook the egg into a delicate coating sauce.) Use tongs to divide the carbonara into warm pasta bowls and top with chopped fresh mint and chive flowers or parsley. Serves 3-4.