Today I am going to indulge myself and bring you along for the ride. Because I have asparagus for you. Not just any asparagus but monster fat asparagus. Technically in the produce trade they are known as Jumbo Asparagus, which is a pretty accurate moniker. Still it’s fun to call them fat asparagus.
Now I like asparagus, and you probably do too. You can usually get it throughout the year so it makes regular appearances on our dinner plates. But frankly I think it’s a shame that regular old asparagus appears, well so regularly. Because it has inured us to the fact that asparagus can be special.
Very special indeed.
Big Fat Asparagus
The special asparagus that holds the greatest affinity for me are indeed these big fat asparagus jumbos. They are available for only a few short weeks in spring (usually) and when I see them I grab them. I have been known to have fat asparagus for dinner. And when I say asparagus for dinner I mean asparagus as the main course. Perhaps I’ll top them with a poached, perhaps not. Either way good bread is essential.
They certainly are worthy of the center of the plate, star treatment. And you don’t have to work too hard or stretch too far to enjoy them in the grandest of manners.
But before I get to the fat asparagus mimosa recipe that is substantial enough to become the centerpiece of meal, let me dispel some misinformation about asparagus in general.
Skinny asparagus is NOT “baby” asparagus. In fact it is asparagus that is usually produced on mature plants and from the furthest tips from the center of the plant. They tend to be stronger flavored and a bit woodier in texture. Which does not mean they are not wonderfully delicious, but it would dictate how you might choose to use them. Thin asparagus is very good for grilling, and stir-frying. Any quick hot method of cooking suits them well. Their strong asparagus flavor is a good match for bold flavors like garlic, black pepper, sharp cheese and cured meats. But I also like to slice them thin to be used in pasta, risotto and soup.
To me the jumbo fat asparagus are best served simply. They are milder and creamier in flavor than your “everyday” asparagus. Still, they come from the same set of roots as the thin spears. In fact the jumbos come from the biggest very healthiest part, usually near the center and often from young or newly planted shoots.
These spears are very big– maybe even an inch across at the base! There are usually only five or six to a pound. That shows you that these are some fat asparagus. When they are cooked properly (which mean just a bit past tender) they have an indescribable texture. They practically melt in your mouth, yet they retain a slightly fibrous, meaty tooth that crunches just so.
Cooking these monster fat asparagus only takes about seven or eight minutes, whether you boil or steam them. The best way to know when they’re done is to poke a spear with a paring knife; it should slide in easily. Another good test is to hold one horizontally, it should sag just slightly under its own weight, but not really bend all that much.
Fat asparagus does need to be peeled however. But no worries, this little bit of extra work pays off in the texture department as well as the presentation. Because it leaves you with artistic spears with dark green tips gradating towards pale, glowing stalks. All at once bright and alien.
Fat asparagus like this defines what I love about cooking, because when you have great ingredients, you don’t have to do much to make something perfect. Even a beginning cook can excel.
So today I have a recipe that will put the novice on a level playing field with the greatest of cooks. It’s a classic bistro rendition of asparagus with sauce mimosa (perfectly cooked jumbo asparagus, vinaigrette, chopped hard-cooked eggs yolk). Really that’s it. That’s the whole recipe. Just give it a sprinkle of the very best salt and serve it with a hunk of the crustiest bread you can find. Then pour yourself a glass of a grassy sauvignon blanc and sneer at the folks who tell you it’s too hard to pair asparagus with wine. I gotta thank Another Wine Blog for that tip.
- 12 spears jumbo fat asparagus, trimmed and lower half of stalk peeled
- 2 1/4 t salt
- 2 T red wine vinegar
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 t Dijion mustard
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
- 6 hard-boiled large eggs at room temperature
Prepare a bowl of ice and cold water.
Put asparagus in a 12-inch heavy skillet, then cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt, then reduce heat and simmer asparagus, uncovered, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. The best way to know when they’re done is to poke a spear with a paring knife; it should slide in easily. Transfer with tongs to ice water, then to a clean kitchen towel. Pat dry.
Whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette in a large shallow bowl letting them marinate covered in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to serve hard-boil the eggs. Let them cool and peel them. Cut each egg in half lengthwise and separate the yolks from the whites then force the yolks through a medium-mesh sieve into another small bowl. Alternatively you may roughly chop them as well. Save the whites for another use. Divide asparagus among 4 plates, or onto 1 large serving platter. Spoon additional vinaigrette over asparagus and top with egg yolks.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD