Friday, April 3, 2009

Tis the Season for ...Asparagus!

Yes kiddies, asparagus is officially back in season. How does one discern between good and bad asparagus you may be asking yourself? The most tender, fresh, and flavorful picks will be very thin and almost purple at the tips.
More likely, you're asking, "Why does asparagus make my pee smell bad?"
Good question... Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks. The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system. Not all people have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some of you can eat all the asparagus you want without stinking up the place.
Unfortunately, I am not one of the lucky few, but I do eat all the asparagus I want because they're loaded with B vitamins and potassium which, in my book, negates the stinky pee.
Here is a delicious recipe that I love to make in the spring (above pictured), courtesy of my friend, Martha.

Morel and Asparagus Sandwiches with Poached Egg
Serves 4
1 cup best-quality whole-milk ricotta cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces asparagus, trimmed
4 ounces small morel mushrooms (halved or quartered if large)
1/2 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chervil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 very fresh large eggs
4 slices ( 1/2 inch thick) rustic bread, lightly toasted

Stir together ricotta, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pinch of pepper in a bowl; set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and oil; heat until butter has melted. Add asparagus, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms. Add stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover, and cook 2 minutes. Uncover, and cook until asparagus is tender and bright green, about 2 minutes more. Add cream; cook until reduced and slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in herbs and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.
Bring a large shallow saucepan of water to a simmer. Working with 1 egg at time, break into a cup, and slide egg into water. Cook the eggs until whites are set, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Spread ricotta mixture over bread slices, dividing evenly. Divide asparagus among slices, and drizzle with sauce. Top each with a poached egg. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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