Monday, November 16, 2009

Grilled Asparagus with prosciutto, fried bread, poached egg, and aged balsamic vinegar

Look at the title of this recipe.

I love asparagus all by itself - but add prosciutto, crispy croutons, a poached egg and aged balsamic - you have my attention. And, as a bonus, it's as easy to make as it sounds: poach the egg, cook the asparagus, warm the croutons, assemble.

This was actually a recipe of leftovers for me. It worked as a natural progression from the Cauliflower Soup recipe and the Roasted Beet Salad with soft-cooked eggs recipe because I already had the fried bread croutons (from the soup) and I had some leftover Stone Barns eggs (from the roasted beet salad).

Keller calls for pencil-thin asparagus - these were pretty close, perhaps a touch thicker. I snapped one of the bunch, then cut the rest of the asparagus to remove the woody ends. I also peeled the bottom half of each asparagus as directed in the recipe - I actually have made a habit out of peeling the stalks whenever I make asparagus. It makes them more tender in any preparation. It is a quick little tip that can really make a difference.

Next step was poaching the eggs. Keller is very specific about how he wants this done. Simmering, acidulated water is stirred TWICE (not once, not thrice) to create a small vortex and the egg is dropped in.

I never make poached eggs, so I was not necessarily comfortable with just banging these eggs out - I took Keller at his word and followed the recipe exactly. I will admit that the two-pot-stir technique worked very well. I will also admit that I did one of the eggs stirring the pot three times and there was no substantial difference. I'm a rebel. After 90 seconds in the water, the egg is removed to an ice bath (not that icy, I know. I kinda forgot to make sure I was stocked up).

I'm not telling which one was stirred three times.

With the eggs resting in the ice bath in the refrigerator, I moved onto grilling the asparagus. Except it was raining. And I don't have a grill pan (I think they are useless - guess I'm wrong). So I sauteed them.


C'mon, it's not that big of a substitution. I put a fair amount of carmelization on them in the pan (yeah that overcrowded pan below).

Alright. Fine.

I promise to make this again when I can grill the asparagus.

There, I said it. Happy?

Now for the assembly. The egg whites are trimmed with scissors to make them presentable and then re-warmed for thirty seconds in simmering water. I took the croutons out of the oven, arranged the prosciutto, asparagus and eggs then distributed the croutons. The eggs got a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a few cranks of pepper.

It should be noted that I added the aged balsamic and olive oil after I photographed the plate. Do not forget this addition as the olive oil adds a nice peppery bite and the aged balsamic adds the sweet-tart note that is a nice balance to all the richness of the eggs.

Take a look:

The sample presentation is one of my absolute favorites in the entire book; it is really hard to make this dish and not want to try to emulate Keller's plating.

This salad is the real deal. It has everything going for it. Salty (prosciutto), sweet (asparagus and balsamic), tart (balsamic), richness (eggs and olive oil), and texture (croutons). It is also surprisingly filling - yet another example where my wife and I had every plan to have a protein along with this meal, but after eating this salad, we were satiated. No need for anything else. I am really impressed when a salad is able to satisfy my hunger. This one earns CleanPlateClub status.

I also like this recipe because it looks elegant. I mean, it is elegant, but it really looks like something special. It is a perfect easy impress-your-friends kind of dish. It has individual components for easy plating in single-serving or family style portions and a dramatic, colorful presentation that is easy on the eyes.

Asparagus from Wegmans
Prosciutto from Wegmans
Eggs From Stone Barns via NA Market
Torn Crouton leftovers
Balsamic Vinegar from Whole Foods
Fleur de Sel from The Spice House


  1. I would give this recipe another shot when you can do two things. 1)grill the asparagus as you've already noted. 2)wait until the spring and use asparagus that is local to your area. Asparagus is one of those products that does not taste even close to as good when it's out of season. Tomatoes being another. I mean, you even state in your 'about' section that you have access to great farms and great produce. Well, use them. Doing these recipes for the sake of doing them is not nearly as interesting as if you would chronicle the stories of the folks in your 'food community'. Yeah, it's great to go to the NYC markets, but come on. Support the farmers in your area. Case in point: Stone Barns eggs? You haven't searched out a supplier of amazing eggs in your area?( and then told their story, too?

    Listen, I'm sure it sounds like I'm busting your balls and, well, I am. I just think your blog would be a whole different animal if you took seasonality and your 'food community'(like you set out to do in your blog's mission) into account when doing the posts. Everybody in PA lives for asparagus season.(FYI, eggs from free range birds are also much tastier in the SPRING and fall due to grass production) Do the recipe then and talk to and about what farmer you bought the product from. The recipes are already there for the home cook, it's the sourcing that is a story. THAT'S interesting stuff. When cooking and eating either at home or at a restaurant seasonality should rule. Food just tastes better that way.

  2. I'm loving your blog! What are you cooking next? Make sure you have it approved by Chef Little beforehand, of course.