Friday, November 22, 2013

Fancy That! Day 4 of the Veggie Marathon
What’s cooking? Asparagus Coins

This is it, folks. The end of the veggie marathon. Next week, I’ll have a couple of posts on salad possibilities, so come see me then.

Today, the Kitchen Goddess has outdone herself. Now, I will warn you ahead of time that this process will seem a bit precious – the idea of blending and straining to produce ½ cup of Parsley Water, for example. I get it – even the name, Parsley Water, sounds ridiculous and frou-frou. But you must trust me when I say how amazing this dish is, and on so many levels.

First, the look is just great, don’t you think? I mean, who would ever get the idea of slicing asparagus into those tiny circles? Thomas Keller, the chef-owner of The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in Manhattan, that’s who. They remind me of that great scene in the movie Big, when Tom Hanks gnaws away at the tiny baby corn cob. Ridiculous? Maybe, but also totally fun. And the color is a spectacular green.

Second, the taste is simply out of this world. Light and unbelievably fresh – the full asparagus flavor with a natural sweetness, and a hint of the herbs in the sauce. The texture is slightly crisp yet not at all raw. You will want to eat the entire dish yourself.

And finally, it doesn’t really take that much time. Certainly not on the day of the meal. You can make the Chive Oil and the Parsley Water a couple of days ahead, and you can slice the asparagus a couple of hours ahead and keep them in the fridge in an airtight container. Once you start the actual cooking, it’s no more than 6 minutes before you’re done.

Kitchen Goddess note: This recipe will take hours longer if you are not careful with the mandoline slicer and accidentally remove the tip of your little finger and have to call your son the almost-doctor to find out what to do. And then you will spend at least the next couple of days with your little finger wrapped in gauze and surgical tape. So take a lesson from the KG and watch what you’re doing with that slicer.

By the way, I should mention that I had a bumper crop of chives in my garden this year, so I doubled the recipe for the Chive Oil and put some in small jars for a few of my friends. It’s a bright emerald green (see photo below), with a light, clean flavor, and goes well drizzled on green vegetables or a sautéed fish fillet.

Asparagus Coins

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

1½ pounds asparagus (best is thickness of ¼-⅜ inch), tough ends removed
3 tablespoons Chive Oil (see below)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons Parsley Water (see  below)

Special equipment: Japanese mandoline slicer

Divide the asparagus into two bunches so that the tips are even, and wrap each bundle securely with a rubber band. Cut the spears to be all the same length. Holding a bundle upright, slice in ⅛-inch rounds on a mandoline. You’ll need to move the rubber bands closer to the tips once or twice as you go, and to rotate the bundles as you hold them, to keep the slices uniform. Stop when the remaining tips are 2-2½ inches long. Kitchen Goddess note: It’s possible – if you’re careful – to thinly slice the bundles even when the lengths aren’t exactly the same. Or you can use a chef’s knife to slice the asparagus into thin rounds.

Set a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the Chive Oil and the asparagus tips, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring. You want to make sure the tips get well coated in the oil. Cook 1½-2 minutes until the tips are beginning to sizzle.

I love this shot with the steam coming off the pan, don't you? Very surreal.

Add the asparagus rounds and continue to sauté, stirring, until the rounds look cooked on the edges but not in the centers, about 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the Parsley Water and continue to cook, stirring, another 1½-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the final tablespoon of Parsley Water, stirring to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Parsley Water

Makes ½ cup

6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups flat-leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems), washed and patted dry

Put the water in a small bowl in the freezer until a thin film of ice forms on top.

Set a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Stir in the honey and allow it to caramelize lightly (about 5 seconds), then add the parsley and stir quickly to coat with the honey for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the contents into the ice water.

Put the parsley and liquid into a blender and blend until smooth. (I never actually reached the smooth stage – perhaps the difference between working with my Cuisinart blender and Keller’s commercial Vita-Mix blender – but by scraping down the inside and reblending a couple of times, got a very serviceable result.) Strain the contents through a fine-mesh strainer and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Parsley water keeps 2-3 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to a month.

Chive Oil

Makes about ¾ cup.

1 cup chives, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup canola oil

Place the chives in mesh strainer and run under hot tap water for a minute, to soften and remove chlorophyll taste. Drain and blot as dry as possible.

Add half the chives to a blender with half the oil, and blend for 2 minutes. Add half the remaining chives and oil to cover, and blend another 2 minutes. Add the remaining chives and oil and blend a final 2 minutes. Store in a container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Stretch a piece of cheesecloth across the top of a small bowl and secure tightly with a rubber band. Pour the chive oil mixture onto the cheesecloth and allow to drip through for 1-2 hours.

Carefully remove the cheesecloth so it doesn’t droop down into the bowl of oil, and discard the solids remaining on the cheesecloth. The oil can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or in the freezer for a month.

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