It’s asparagus season in our neighborhood. The fields of Hadley, Massachusetts are yielding the delicious spears that once made the Connecticut River Valley the asparagus capital of North America. The industry has never quite recovered from a mid-20th century blight, but the farms are producing some stunning asparagus for a few weeks each year. We are eating as much as we can while it is in season.
Alain Ducasse grabbed our attention with a brilliant recipe for asparagus and soft-boiled egg in his new cookbook. It’s called Simple Nature: 150 New Recipes for Fresh, Healthy Dishes. Ducasse launched his first “Simple Nature” cookbook five years ago. This second installment is, if anything, simpler and more natural. The celebrity French chef penned it with chef Christophe Saintagne and nutritionist Paule Neyrat. The precise yet straightforward dishes provide a peek into Ducasse’s concept of cuisine. They’re seasonal—the book begins with the fall harvest and progresses to the following summer. Recipes come with notes by Ducasse and Neyrat, identified the bottom by their initials.
So to launch a short series of asparagus posts, we thought that Ducasse’s daringly simple treatment would be a good way to let a recipe show his philosophy of cuisine. It also provides a French take on this tantalizingly short-season vegetable. The photo is courtesy of the publisher.
Simple Nature: 150 New Recipes for Fresh, Healthy Dishes is published in the U.S. by Rizzoli New York. It lists for $45, but is discounted on Amazon.
ASPARAGUS, SOFT-BOILED EGG, AND VINAIGRETTE
PREPARATION TIME: 20 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES
6 tablespoons shallot vinaigrette (see below)
2 bunches green asparagus
1 bunch tarragon
Make the shallot vinaigrette. Set aside.
Prepare the asparagus and soft-boiled eggs.
Remove the scales from the asparagus spears. Cut off the tough end of the stem and peel to 3 centimeters – 11/4 inches from the tip. Set aside 2 asparagus spears. Tie the others into small bunches with kitchen twine.Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan and immerse the bunches of asparagus for about 6 minutes. Check that they are cooked with the tip of a knife, which should slide in easily. At the same time, boil the eggs in the same pan, also for 6 minutes.
Drain the asparagus on a clean cloth and untie. Take the eggs out of the pan and transfer to a bowl filled with cold water. When they have cooled somewhat, peel them.
Season the vinaigrette
Rinse, dry, pluck, and mince the tarragon leaves. Season the shallot vinaigrette with salt and Espelette pepper. Mix, then add the minced tarragon. Stir.
Finish and serve
Arrange the asparagus on four heated plates. Add 1soft-boiled egg to each plate and make a small cut on the yolk with a knife. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Use a mandoline with safety guard to finely slice the reserved asparagus spears over the plates and season with Espelette pepper.
AD – Be sure to use asparagus grown as locally as possible. And take the time to heat your plates for 10 minutes in an oven set at 110˚C – 225˚F (gas mark 1/4). It’s a worthwhile step.
PN – A nice one-dish meal, chef. The protein from the eggs is the best there is; asparagus contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, and so do the tarragon and shallots.
MAKES 20CL – 2/3 CUP
PREPARATION TIME: 5 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 20 MINUTES
5 olive shallots (or regular shallots)
100 milliliter – 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
100 milliliter – 1/3 cup plus1tablespoon olive oil
Prepare the shallots
Peel and mince the shallots.
Make the shallot vinaigrette
Put the shallots in a small saucepan and add the vinegar. Simmer until the vinegar almost completely evaporates, about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Off the heat, gradually add the oil while whisking to thoroughly emulsify.
Transfer the vinaigrette to a bowl and let cool. Keep it refrigerated until serving time.