Pastry rafts or standing tall … three ways to enjoy asparagus Essay

Open dinner with spring’s harvest of asparagus.

Cook the brightgreen stalks lightly and serve with simple elegance. Here are three ways to go: the first is an appetizer to eat withyour fingers, the others are knife-and-fork presentations. Asparaguswith Sesame Mayonnaise 2 pounds asparagus Water Toasted sesamemayonnaise (recipe follows) Snap tough ends off asparagus. Peel stalks, if desired.

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In a 12-to 14-inch frying pan, bring about 1 inch water to boiling. addasparagus and simmer, uncovered, until barely tender when pierced, 3 to4 minutes. Drain and immerse in ice water until cold; drain again. (Ifmade ahead, cover and chill up to overnight.) Serve toasted sesamemayonnaise alongside asparagus. Dip asparagus into mayonnaise to eat.Serves 8 to 10. Toasted sesame mayonnaise.

In a 6- to 8-inch frying pan, stir 2tablespoons sesame seed with 1/4 cup salad oil on medium-low heat untilgolden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup salad oil. Let cool. In ablender, combine 1 large egg, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons white winevinegar, and 1 teaspoon honey.

Whirl until thoroughly blended. Withmotor running, slowly add oil mixture in a thin, steady stream about1/16 inch wide. Blend in 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Add salt to taste.Serve, or cover and chill up to 2 days. Asparagus with Orange-ButterSauce 2 pounds asparagus Water 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine 1/3cup minced shallots 1-1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1-1/3 cups orangejuice Salt Pastry rafts, optional (recipe follows) Orange wedges Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus.

Peel stalks with avegetable peeler, if desired. In a 12-to 14-inch frying pan, bringabout 1 inch water to boiling. Add the asparagus and simmer, uncovered,until barely tender when pierced, 3 to 5 minutes; drain. Keep warm orlet cool. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat.Add shallots and stir until limp. Add mustard and orange juice. Boil,uncovered, over high heat until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 10 minutes.

Turn heat to low and add remaining butter in one chunk, stirringconstantly until incorporated. Add salt to taste. (If made ahead, keepwarm up to 4 hours in a hot 1- to 2-cup thermos.) Pour sauce equally on 6 warmed plates. Set bottom half of pastryraft on sauce. Place 1/6 of the asparagus on each bottom, letting endsstick out. Prop pastry tops over asparagus. (If pastry rafts are notused, simply lay asparagus in sauce.

) Garnish with orange wedge.Serves 6. Pastry rafts. Thaw 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a17-3/4-oz. package) at room temperature, then cut into 6 rectangles(each 3 by 5 in.). Place slightly apart in a 10- by 15-inch pan. Brushwith beaten egg.

Prick each piece several times with a fork. Bake in a425[deg.] oven until browned, about 15 minutes. With a knife, split inhalf. Serve hot, or let cool on racks. Asparagus with Lemon-GingerCream 1 pound asparagus Water 1 cup regular-strength chicken broth 2thin, quarter-size slices fresh ginger 1 strip (1/2 by 4 in.

) lemonpeel, yellow part only 2/3 cup whippin cream 8 quail eggs or 4 largechicken eggs, poached (directions follow) Snap off tough ends of asparagus and discard. Peel stalks withvegetable peeler, if desired. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, bringabout 1 inch water to boiling. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered,just until barely tender when pierced, 3 to 5 minutes; drain.

Keep warmor let cool. In the same pan, rapidly boil broth, ginger, and peel, uncovered,to reduce to 1/2 cup. Add cream; boil, uncovered, to reduce to 1/2 cup.Remove ginger and peel. Pour equal amounts of sauce on 4 warmed plates; arrange 1/4 of theasparagus and 2 quail or 1 chicken egg on each. Serves 4.

Poached eggs. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, immerse eggs (quail orchicken) in rapidly boiling water; allow 5 seconds for quail eggs, 8seconds for chicken eggs. Lift from water and set aside.

Meanwhile,fill a 10- to 12-inch frying pan with enough water to completely covereggs; heat just until bubbles form on pan bottom. With a knife, breakeach shell, hold it close to water, and let egg gently slip in. Cookquail eggs 2 at a time; for soft yolks, allow 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Allow3 to 4 minutes for chicken eggs with soft yolk. Lift eggs out with aslotted spoon; drain briefly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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