Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Slippery yolks for springtime folks

One of my favorite lunchtime haunts can be found up in Williamsburg. Countless sunny afternoons have seen my husband and I lunching on the patio at the Blue Talon Bistro, inevitably ordering one of our favorite dishes.

When I heard about the fire in December which temporarily shut them down (they have since re-opened), I was thankful that nobody was injured. At the same time, the prospect of a winter without the bistro burger or macaroni gratin was a bleak one indeed.

As this "winter" weather has pulled its punches this year, the balmy days had me yearning for their grilled asparagus salad. A riff upon the classic salade lyonnaise, this had the addition of cheese, bread and fresh asparagus. A veritable spring meal in a bowl, and one that proved easy enough to make at home.

The French may use lardons, but this Newport News kitchen found thickly-cut bacon to work just fine. As it sizzled away on the stove, I blanched the asparagus in salted, boiling water. The last of the bacon finished, just as the vibrant green asparagus were ready for an ice-bath.

My greens-- which included a mix of baby arugula, romaine hearts and watercress-- had already been cleaned, and were ready to go. Day-old bread was panini-toasted into a crunchy golden sponge, ready to soak up all the wonderful flavors, while a thick slice of St. Andres triple-creme cheese sat softening on the counter. I'd also made the basic vinaigrette earlier. While I settled upon sherry vinegar, good quality balsamic, champagne and red wine vinegars would all work well.

That left only one final glorious touch: a perfectly poached egg to crown the top. With a quick jab of my fork, the yolk had been pierced, and slowly began to mingle into the salad. I sliced, and took a bite with a wedge of baguette. My world narrowed to everything green, a rich smudge of cheese, smoky bacon and of course, the delicately draped egg. Spring is here.

Asparagus Salad with Bacon, Egg & Mixed Greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry (or other) vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
1 bunch asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 thick-cut strips of bacon
day old bread, sliced or cut into croutons
2 fresh eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 thick slices of triple creme cheese (I used Saint Andre), warmed to room temperature
mixed fresh greens (frisee, spinach, lettuce, arugula, watercress, etc.), cleaned, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces

Make the vinaigrette: mix the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and salt & pepper together; set aside.
Cook the bacon over medium heat until done, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to drain on paper towel, then roughly chop.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add a generous handful of salt, then add asparagus. Cook uncovered until just tender and bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately drain and plunge into an ice bath.

If using slices of bread, coat with a touch of olive oil and toast. If making croutons, drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the frying pan. Cook cubes over medium-high heat, stirring to make sure they are well-coated. Remove when golden.

Poach the Eggs: bring water to a lively simmer in a medium pan, then add white vinegar. Break each egg into a separate bowl, then stir the water in the pot until it has a "whirlpool" effect. Gently slip eggs into the swirling water, one at a time: they should wrap nicely around themselves. Cook for about 3 minutes, until your desired degree of doneness has been reached- I like 'em runny.

Assemble the salad: divide the mixed greens evenly into two bowls. Add vinaigrette, asparagus and bacon, mixing well. Add bread/croutons and the cheese. Top with poached egg and dig in.


Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Only have two asparagus in the fridge, must get more...
Gorgeous salad!

7:03 AM  

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