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

Open dinner with spring’s harvest of asparagus. Cook the bright
green stalks lightly and serve with simple elegance.



Here are three ways to go: the first is an appetizer to eat with
your fingers, the others are knife-and-fork presentations. Asparagus
with Sesame Mayonnaise 2 pounds asparagus Water Toasted sesame
mayonnaise (recipe follows)

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Snap tough ends off asparagus. Peel stalks, if desired. In a 12-
to 14-inch frying pan, bring about 1 inch water to boiling. add
asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until barely tender when pierced, 3 to
4 minutes. Drain and immerse in ice water until cold; drain again. (If
made ahead, cover and chill up to overnight.) Serve toasted sesame
mayonnaise alongside asparagus. Dip asparagus into mayonnaise to eat.
Serves 8 to 10.



Toasted sesame mayonnaise. In a 6- to 8-inch frying pan, stir 2
tablespoons sesame seed with 1/4 cup salad oil on medium-low heat until
golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup salad oil. Let cool. In a
blender, combine 1 large egg, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons white wine
vinegar, and 1 teaspoon honey. Whirl until thoroughly blended. With
motor running, slowly add oil mixture in a thin, steady stream about
1/16 inch wide. Blend in 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Add salt to taste.
Serve, or cover and chill up to 2 days. Asparagus with Orange-Butter
Sauce 2 pounds asparagus Water 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine 1/3
cup minced shallots 1-1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard 1-1/3 cups orange
juice Salt Pastry rafts, optional (recipe follows) Orange wedges


Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Peel stalks with a
vegetable peeler, if desired. In a 12-to 14-inch frying pan, bring
about 1 inch water to boiling. Add the asparagus and simmer, uncovered,
until barely tender when pierced, 3 to 5 minutes; drain. Keep warm or
let 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, stirring
constantly until incorporated. Add salt to taste. (If made ahead, keep
warm up to 4 hours in a hot 1- to 2-cup thermos.)



Pour sauce equally on 6 warmed plates. Set bottom half of pastry
raft on sauce. Place 1/6 of the asparagus on each bottom, letting ends
stick out. Prop pastry tops over asparagus. (If pastry rafts are not
used, simply lay asparagus in sauce.) Garnish with orange wedge.
Serves 6.



Pastry rafts. Thaw 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a
17-3/4-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. Brush
with beaten egg. Prick each piece several times with a fork. Bake in a
425[deg.] oven until browned, about 15 minutes. With a knife, split in
half. Serve hot, or let cool on racks. Asparagus with Lemon-Ginger
Cream 1 pound asparagus Water 1 cup regular-strength chicken broth 2
thin, quarter-size slices fresh ginger 1 strip (1/2 by 4 in.) lemon
peel, yellow part only 2/3 cup whippin cream 8 quail eggs or 4 large
chicken eggs, poached (directions follow)



Snap off tough ends of asparagus and discard. Peel stalks with
vegetable peeler, if desired. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, bring
about 1 inch water to boiling. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered,
just until barely tender when pierced, 3 to 5 minutes; drain. Keep warm
or 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 the
asparagus and 2 quail or 1 chicken egg on each. Serves 4.



Poached eggs. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, immerse eggs (quail or
chicken) in rapidly boiling water; allow 5 seconds for quail eggs, 8
seconds for chicken eggs. Lift from water and set aside. Meanwhile,
fill a 10- to 12-inch frying pan with enough water to completely cover
eggs; heat just until bubbles form on pan bottom. With a knife, break
each shell, hold it close to water, and let egg gently slip in. Cook
quail eggs 2 at a time; for soft yolks, allow 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Allow
3 to 4 minutes for chicken eggs with soft yolk. Lift eggs out with a
slotted spoon; drain briefly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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