Before I knew it, Spring completely passed me by. I mean, yes, it technically is still Spring, but around these parts Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of Summer. Before I knew it, I felt like I totally missed out on all of the great springtime announcement vegetables. And if it’s Spring, I need me some green. Green grass…green peppers…green beans….GREEN!
And what’s greener than asparagus? (Well, aside from the other green items I just mentioned.) Enter: asparagus gremolata.
My favorite thing about this, oddly enough, is NOT the ooey gooey poached egg that’s running all down the stalks. Graphic, I know. Actually, my favorite thing about this dish is my newly discovered love of gremolata – an Italian dry condiment made up of garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. You know why I love it? Because it allows me to use the word “condiment” without referring to ketchup, mustard, or mayo. I love words.
In all seriousness, this side dish is just fun and different and interesting and fun. And if you close your eyes, you can imagine that the runny egg yolk is actually creamy hollandaise sauce, but feel slightly better about yourself because of all the butter calories you didn’t consume.
One thing I learned the hard way when making this is that, unfortunately, this is a dish of many pots. Now, I’m normally one to loathe taking up all of my precious burners with pots (especially since one of my four burners is perpetually dedicated to my tea kettle…no…exceptions). But, once you see the amazing color that comes off of these asparagus after 30 seconds in boiling water, all disgruntled gripes at the pots are forgotten.
Are there better things in life than gently tearing open a perfectly poached egg? Probably, but few give you the same satisfaction. Let me set the scene:
As a delicate white orb sits on top of your asparagus, you slightly jiggle it with the tip of your finger to assess doneness of the inside. Upon determining that, yup, there’s runny yolky goodness in there, you gently tear a single fork tine down across the taught surface. Before you even finish dragging your fork across the egg, your pupils dilate and you immediately dart your eyes to where you expect to see a running cascade of golden creaminess glide down your plate and over your asparagus. You want to make sure you’re watching where you think the runny yolk will lead, because you don’t want to actually miss it when it starts to make its journey. It’s kind of like waiting for a parade to turn the corner and get to your block. Then, once the yolk and asparagus collide, the yellow river just seeps down into the nooks of the asparagus stalks, sliding underneath them and mixing with the finely minced garlic and lemon zest.
Oh yeah, baby. Come to mama!
P.S. Gremolata is absolutely fabulous on green beans as well, or anything green for that matter.
Nothing says Spring more than bright green asparagus gremolata swimming in a gooey egg yolk.
- 2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed (this usually equates to 2 bunches)
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt (for the blanching water)
- 2 cups ice cubes
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
- Pepper, to taste
- Sea salt to garnish (optional)
- Fill a 4.5 quart pot half way with water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 tbsp of kosher salt.
- Fill another pot (2.5 quarts) half way with water and bring it to a simmer. Once simmering, add the white vinegar.
- To trim the asparagus, take one stalk and holding the spear at both ends gently bend it until it snaps in two. Take the larger portion of the stalk (the side with the pretty florets) and align it against the remaining asparagus stalks. Using that stalk as a guide, cut the rest of the stalk ends off and discard. Those are too tough to eat and won't cook right with the rest of the bunch.
- Before blanching the asparagus, fill a large bowl with cold water and put the ice cubes in the water.
- Assemble the gremolata by mixing the garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and parsley into a small bowl. Set aside.
- To poach the eggs, crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. I usually poach two at a time because that's the most I can safely babysit without them breaking or falling apart. Gently lower one egg at a time into the simmering water (containing the vinegar). Quickly fold some of the whites over onto the egg yolks and poach for 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the asparagus into the boiling salted water and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until you see that bright green color. Quickly drain the asparagus and put it in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Dry the asparagus as best you can with paper towels (or you'll get oil splatters once it hits the hot pan). Add the asparagus to the saute pan and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, just to heat everything through. Add some salt and pepper (to taste) on the asparagus while it's cooking.
- When it's finished, transfer to a platter and toss with the gremolata until nicely coated.
- When the eggs are finished, remove them with a slotted spoon, drain the excess water off on a towel, and place on top of the asparagus. Sprinkle the poached eggs with some pepper and a hint of sea salt, and serve immediately.
If you're not a humongous lover of garlic, then scale back on the cloves. Start with 2 and add more to your liking. Be sure to finely mince the garlic, the gremolata is a raw condiment.