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).
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