Asparagus with Mozzarella and Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon verbena
- 2 tablespoon shallots (minced)
- 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (as needed for seasoning)
- 1 pound thick asparagus spears
- 2 ounce low-moisture mozzarella cheese (cut ½-inch dice)
- fresh whole lemon verbena leaves (as garnish)
Make the lemon verbena vinaigrette: Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat until brown and foamy. Continue heating, swirling the pan often, until bubbles begin to subside and gives off a nutty aroma. Take care not to burn the butter. It can go from brown to burnt very quickly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped lemon verbena, minced shallots, and garlic. It should sizzle. Wait 2 or 3 minutes and then transfer the mixture to a small jar with a lid. Add olive oil and cider vinegar. Shake to emulsify and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the asparagus: Using a vegetable peeler, lightly peel the asparagus spears to within about 3-inches of the tip (peeling the asparagus is optional but will improve texture). Cut off woody bases of asparagus. Rinse and drain the asparagus and then cut them in half lengthwise (this is optional and may be unnecessary for thinner spears)
Drizzle some water onto 4 paper towels, just enough to barely dampen them. Spread out the paper towels and lay the asparagus on top of the dampened towels. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt. Roll up the asparagus in the dampened towels, twist or fold the ends closed. Lay the bundle, seam side down, in the microwave. Microwave on high until the asparagus is just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the microwave using tongs and carefully unwrap.
Transfer asparagus to a heatproof serving plate. Top with cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Broil 4 inches from heat for about 2 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown in places.
Remove from heat, drizzle with freshly shaken lemon verbena vinaigrette to taste. Garnish with lemon verbena leaves.