Asperges en Vinaigrette et Œufs Mimosa
Spring has finally sprung in Vancouver. We tend to be late bloomers because of our temperamental coastal climate and being situated next to the Rockie Mountains. Two things that make Spring official (at least to me) is the thrive of cherry blossoms and an abundant supply of asparagus in our markets.
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that cannot go wrong unless they are overcooked. Personally, I love them best grilled and sprinkled with sea salt and balsamic vinegar but I also enjoy them cut on the bias and stir-fried in garlic and seafood Cantonese style. Although asparagus can usually be found year-round now, they usually look rather sad at other times of the year; their lanky, malnourished bodies look exhausted after traveling hundreds of miles. Therefore, I take advantage of their availability during their peak season.
Thomas Keller shares a fairly simple recipe for an asparagus salad in Bouchon. As with many of his recipes, each individual component is simple to make but there are quite a few parts to assemble. So let’s get started!
p.s. does your pee smell funny after eating asparagus too?
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt (I like the flavor of coarse sea salt better)
Hard-cooked large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
These ingredients sound simple, right? Well they are, but the recipe is not just a matter of tossing everything together. What would be the fun in that?
First, the asparagus was prepared. I washed them and snapped off the tough ends. I placed them neatly on the chopping board so all the tips lined up with the top edge and then trimmed off the bottoms evenly. Reserve the trimmed ends (around 2 cups) and bring a big pot of water to a boil.
Next, I peeled the asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler. Peel them while they are on the board and roll them as you peel. It’s much easier that way than holding the stalk up as they might even snap that way.
Once the water boiled, I added a handful of salt and blanched the trimmed ends. Have an ice bath ready. In the mean time, I separated the asparagus into four portions and bound them with twine.
When the trimmed ends were very soft, around 4 minutes, I removed them and immediately plunged them into the ice bath. Keep them there while the asparagus bundles get their turn in the pot. The spears take less time to cook. Keller suggested 4-6 minutes but I found that’s too long. I took them out at around 3-4 minutes to keep some crispness. Again, plunge them into the ice bath. Reserve some cooking liquid.
When the bundles were cold, I removed the twine, blotted them dry, and put them in the fridge to thoroughly cool down. While they cooled, I assembled the other components.
This was utterly simple to make. I added the cooled trimmings into a blender, pulsed and blended it smooth (added about 1 tsp of reserved liquid to get it going), added a pinch of salt, strained it, and kept it covered in the fridge until plating.
I hard-boiled some eggs according to his instructions. I placed the eggs in a pot and covered them with cold water and brought it to a boil. I let it boil for a minute, took it off the stove and let them sit for 10 minutes. Then they went in an ice bath, were peeled, and the egg yolks were separated. To make the mimosa, I grated the egg yolks over the large holes of a grater to create a fluff of yellow goodness.
I wonder if the vinaigrette Keller serves at Bouchon really is this effortless. It’s simply 3 parts canola oil (I used olive), 1 part red wine vinegar, and some Dijon mustard. He recommends first blending the mustard with the vinegar in the blender and drizzling in some oil, then transferring it to a bowl to whisk the rest of the oil in slowly. I did it all by hand and it worked fine. It resulted in a smooth, pale yellow dressing.
Toss julienned radish with the minced chives, some olive oil, and season with s&p.
This salad tasted refreshing and springy. This will impress your guests as a starter to a dinner party, especially since everything (except the radish) can be prepared ahead of time. The coulis, egg yolks, and vinaigrette combined to create a creamy dressing.
It’s a textural thing. If you enjoy creaminess over your veggies, you would love this. I am partial to more oil/ vinegar or even no dressing at all over my salad so I found this a bit too creamy. On the other hand, my taster loved it and had 3 servings so it really is just a matter of personal preference. The radish added textural interest and bite to the salad and is a complimentary touch. This recipe a nice way to showcase spring asparagus at their prime freshness. I would make this again but probably without the coulis because I found that it did not bring much flavor to the party… but it sure is pretty!