As June marches on, thus goes the season of asparagus. But oh! Are we enjoying it and will continue for the next weeks, to the tune of 20,000 tons per capita! To say the French love asparagus is to put it mildly!
The Best Comes From…
French asparagus is grown commercially in the southwest – Aquitaine, the Gironde, even in Camargue – and in the lush Loire Valley. Each region produces asparagus with a slightly different flavor and level of tenderness ranging from intensity with a touch of salinity from the south to the juicy tenderness of that from the Loire.
Crooked Finger Asparagus
There is also a category of local asparagus that arrives at the marketplace looking like crooked fingers. It’s grown on the family farm and so it grows a bit hither and thither, which takes nothing away from its gorgeous flavor. It just requires the cook to be a bit more creative to make it look lovely on the plate. Which is where the recipe featured today comes in handy. Here, asparagus comes shrouded with air-cured ham and curls of Parmigiano, so it could be any color and any shape. What’s magic here is the flavor, and the combination.
Less is More
When you prepare asparagus, less is more. It requires very little cooking to release its flavor, making this dish one that is quick to put together. And you can serve it warm or at room temperature. I can’t wait to hear how much you love this because I’m certain you will!
Asparagus is NOW…
Enjoy asparagus while you can, secure in the knowledge that as it fades away more summer vegetables arrive to take its place. And, the most important thing, in one short year it will be back! So don’t mourn, just enjoy.
Make this dish well and make it often, right now. For then it will become the stuff of memories!
- 2 pounds;1kg asparagus, trimmed and rinsed
- 4 cloves garlic green germ removed if necessary, cut in matchsticks
- 1 fresh bay leaf optional
- 1 scant tablespoon olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24 slices air-cured ham
- A 6 ounce; 180g chunk of Parmigiano
- Place the asparagus in a large skillet or pan with a lid. Add 1/3 cup (80ml) water and sprinkle the garlic over the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat then lower the heat so the water is simmering, cover, and cook until the asparagus is just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid, shake the pan and test the asparagus. If it needs more cooking, replace the lid and continue cooking until it is the tenderness you prefer.Remove the lid and increase the heat to the water is boiling and cook until it is all evaporated, shaking the pan as you do.
- Divide the asparagus among 4 to 6 plates, placing them side by side. Using a pastry brush, paint the asparagus from “heat to toe” with oil. Strew the garlic matchsticks among them. Let them cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
- Carefully drape slices over the width of the asparagus so it is entirely covered. Using a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler, “peel” the Parmigiano over the asparagus, adding as much or as little as you like. Grind the pepper over each plate and serve.