Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Food fantasy revisited

Getting restaurant recommendations from friends is a lovely thing. If it's someplace you've never heard of, all the better. Not only are you discovering another place to eat on a night you don't feel like cooking, but now you know it's good, too. Such was the case when our friends Jen and Corrine recommended to us Hazelnut Kitchen.

Months later, I'm still dreaming about their hand-rolled lasagna noodles layered with spinach-leek puree and topped with a saffron-yellow fried egg... which was possibly the most sumptuous meal I've ever eaten. Yeah, remembering how the yolk oozed all unctuously down the sides, comingling slyly with the emerald-colored filling, oh baby, it's enough to keep me up nights. Until I buy a pasta machine, (or am given one, nudge nudge) that flashback fantasy will remain beyond my reach.

Not so the roasted asparagus. When I ordered it, I had no idea it would be extraordinary. The menu listed simply Asparagus, no portent of what was to come. When the plate of pencil-thin spears arrived, I was impressed. They were perfectly tender, carmelized at the edges and crusted with black pepper. In addition to my lascivious fried egg fantasies, for the past two months I've been dreaming of that plate of asparagus.

Having friends over for dinner this past weekend was the perfect excuse to take a stab at recreating this dish. Try it, while there's still gorgeous, sleek asparagus to be had.

Black Pepper Roasted Asparagus

1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces ( a little more than a pound is okay)
1 egg white, beaten
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed pink peppercorns, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk the seasonings into the egg white until well blended. Oil a 9 x 13" glass baking dish. Add the asparagus, and drizzle the egg white mixture over top. Using a flipper, turn and stir the asparagus until each piece is (more or less) evenly coated with pepper. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your spears.

And that's it, folks. It's so worth it, and so much easier (in my opinion) than boiling. I'd really like to try this someday using one of those "gourmet peppercorn blends," you know, the kind with the green ones, pink ones, and white ones mixed in? Fancy shmancy.


zoe said...

Cool! So the egg white mixture becomes sort of like a binding for the seasonings to the asparagus?

Cassandra said...

Oh goodness. Thanks thanks thanks for this lovely recipe! I've been looking for a great way to introduce asparagus into our diet. I know I'll love it. It's just got to be cooked the right way. I will be trying this one out this evening for sure!

Blue is Bleu said...

I love asparagus but unfortunately the hubs hates it! I'll have to try this recipe on a small scale :D

Stephanie said...

I love asparagus when it is cooked right. This one looks so good!

Kristina said...

Zoe-- Yeah, the egg white is the binding. I'm not sure it's necessary, (maybe a little oil would work instead?) but it works!

Cassandra-- I'm with you. Not all asparagus is praise-worthy. I've found that roasting it really concentrates the flavors, though. It's tasty.

Bleu-- Woe betide the spose of an asparagus-hater. He doesn't know what he's missing!s

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