The warmth of the sun that I was feeling yesterday as I write this definitely suggests that spring is around the corner. We had too long and too very harsh winter. Now I am looking ahead to the return of asparagus to our neighborhood Greenmarket. Growing asparagus is packed full of energy. The shoot, after breaking out of the ground, grows as much as 10 inches in a single day. I need to charge my wintered-out body with their spring energy.
When we purchase just harvested asparagus, we do not need to do much to it. When properly cooked the flesh is tender, the flavor is pleasantly grassy-sweet and the natural crunch remains. I just break off the bottom hard part of the stem and cook the stalks in a steamer or in salted boiling water for just 30 seconds or so. After draining, I air-dry it in order not to loose any flavor.
Freshly harvested asparagus can be enjoyed just with a good quality sea salt, such as Suzushio salt. But, here is how I prepare it in order to make my asparagus dish even more special. We need just two wonderful, somewhat unusual but readily available ingredients: Kishibori shoyu and Espellete chile powder. You can find both at www.theingredientsfinder.com . Make the sauce at least half a day in advance and let it mature to blend the flavors.
2 servings as a side dish
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Espellete chile powder
1 tablespoon Kishobori shoyu
10 oz freshly harvested asparagus stalks, hard bottom snapped off
2 poached eggs
2-4 slices prosciutto ham
Prepare the sauce: In a saucepan add the olive oil and heat it over medium-low heat until you begin to see a little white smoke appear from the oil. Do not bring the oil to sizzle nor burn it. Quickly add the Espellete chile powder, turn off the heat, and stir to mix the chile in the hot oil. Then, immediately transfer the chile oil to a clean glass jar. Add the Kishibori shoyu to the jar and stir. Cool the sauce and store, covered with a tight fitting lid, at room temperature. The sauce is pleasantly spicy with distinctive Espellete aroma.
Cook the very fresh asparagus for just 30 seconds or so in a heated steamer or in salted boiling water in a pot. Longer stored asparagus requires a longer cooking time, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes depending on the thickness and storage duration. Drain the asparagus well and air-dry it in a large strainer.
To serve the dish, arrange the asparagus on two plates. Garnish the asparagus with prosciutto and poached egg. Drizzle the asparagus and egg with the prepared sauce. When you enjoy this dish make sure to mix the very soft part of the egg yolk with the sauce.