theboywhoatetheworld cooks: Chargrilled Asparagus with 65°C egg
If there was one thing I cooked up more than anything else over these past couple of months, it would have to be good ol’ British asparagus. The asparagus season here in the UK typically spans 8 weeks from late April to Midsummer’s day. A rather chilly and erratic Spring however meant a much later start to the season this year than usual. Thus, from mid-May to mid-June of this year when local asparagus was at its prime, I must have stuffed myself with at least several kilograms of it to make up for the curtailed season.
My favourite way to prep asparagus is to blanch it for a couple of minutes in salted boiling water, refresh it in an ice bath and then chargrill it over a very hot griddle pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper. By cooking it this way, not only do you get those beautiful griddle marks on the asparagus, but it also maintains the crunch, sweetness and verdancy of the spears.
To go with the greens, I was after something with a bit more wow factor than plain Jane soft-boiled egg. I immediately recalled a quite stunning Asparagus and slow-cooked 65°C egg dish which we had at Noma back in ’09. The smooth, velvety yolk was unlike any egg I’ve had before – the texture soft and silky but not overly runny. Set on trying to recreate that egg at home, into my arsenal of recipe books I went searching. Most molecular cookbooks out there often call for the use of a sous vide machine to cook the eggs… something which inevitably puts off 99% of home cooks out there who don’t own one. The solution? Make your own homemade water bath! After some tinkering, I managed to pull off the eggs using a big pot of water over the stove plus a temperature probe. It’s important however to use a cast iron or heavy based 3-ply stainless steel pan with a lid to keep the water temperature as stable as possible whilst poaching the eggs.
Serve the asparagus and eggs with a simple pea puree and shavings of a hard cheese such as Parmesan or Dutch Kaas. Have a crack at it!
Ingredients (serves 4 people)
- 4 eggs
- 2 bunches of Asparagus (British preferably if in season)
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 200g frozen peas
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 25g butter
- 200ml chicken stock
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- Parmesan or Dutch Kaas cheese, shavings for garnish
- Get the eggs on first. Fill a large, heavy-based pan with 2/3 boiling water and 1/3 cold water. Probe the temperature and adjust with ice or hot water to get a temperature in the 63°C – 65°C range. Keep the temperature as stable as possible by covering with a lid and setting the stove at a very low heat (I used the lowest setting on mine). Once stable, cook the eggs (in their shells) for 36 minutes. When done, remove and cool in ice water. The eggs are now cooked and just need rewarming in their shells before serving so save the pot of warm water for later.
- Make the pea puree. Melt butter in a pan over a medium heat then sweat the shallots for 2 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock and peas and bring to the boil, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool then transfer the pea mixture to a blender and liquidize into a purée. You can control the puree’s consistency by add the liquid to the blender in stages. Pass through a sieve, season to taste and keep warm.
- Break off the bottom stems of the asparagus (this part is usually too woody to eat). Blanche the asparagus in salted boiling water for 2 minutes then refresh immediately in an ice water. Now trim the asparagus into whatever size and shape you fancy. I like to keep some spears whole whilst halving others lengthways. Lightly coat the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper then chargrill in a hot griddle pan until you get some nice grill marks and colouration.
- Reheat the eggs (still in their shells!) in warm water (55°C – 58°C) for 3 to 4 minutes then crack open very gently into a bowl. Remove the yolks from the whites (I found it easiest to let the white slip through my fingers, catching the yolk on its own. It’s a very delicate process so you might want to cook a couple spares just in case you pierce one of the yolks by accident!
- Plate up the egg yolk, asparagus and pea puree then garnish with some shavings of Parmesan or Kaas.
Asparagus and eggs never tasted better =).
* 65°C egg recipe adapted from Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by Rene Redzepi