Italian Style Asparagus

This dish is the perfect starter for the spring. Yep, I said spring! The spring is here =) And now it´s time to indulge all the lovely spring vegetables which at least in my case will overflow the kitchen in the upcoming months. There is something special with the first primeurs for the season. They are so delicate and crisp and a delight to cook with.

I made this fresh starter at the big party last week and all the guests loved it. Except from being super tasty it´s also super easy. So win, win! The crisps are the hardest to make because you want them super thin, but with a mandolin or a sharp knife even that is considered quite easy. You will probably get some crisps left over, but don´t worry – they work well as a contrast to every soft ingredient imaginable. It works for example as a garnish on soups or crumbled on top of a Spaghetti Bolognese with some parmesan and fresh basil. There will probably also be some remaining parmesan cream, but serve the leftovers on top of a toast with some smoked salmon and baby spinach and you have the perfect Sunday breakfast ready in just a few minutes.

When cooking asparagus keep the peel and make a nice soup out of it. Both you and the environment will be glad for the wonderful soup that magically transforms the throw-away peel into something delicious.

And browned butter… Gosh! Who doesn’t get knocked out by some caramelized nutty butter?

Asparagus with Parma Ham, Parmesan Cream, Browned Butter, Roasted Hazelnuts and Ciabatta Crisps – 6 servings

Asparagus, Parma ham, browned butter, roasted hazelnuts and ciabatta go so well together. The flavours enhance each other and takes this simple dish beyond the imaginable.

Ingredients

Parmesan Cream
2 eggs
35 g milk
35 g cream
35 g Parmesan
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper

Ciabatta Crisps
1 ciabatta (approx. 100 g)
Olive oil
Fine salt (i.e. table salt)

To Serve
18 green asparagus
6 slices Parma ham or other air cured ham
60 g butter
20 g hazelnuts
Parmesan Cream
Ciabatta Crisps

Oven: 225 C°, 175 C°

How to do:

Parmesan Cream: Crack the eggs in a pan and combine with milk and cream. Warm the mixture om medium to low heat and stir occasionally. When the eggs start to scramble (you don´t want the eggs totally scrambled, but there should be large soft curds of cooked eggs in in the mass) it´s time to add the parmesan. Mix the cream in a food processor or a hand blender until smooth. The consistency should be like thick custard when finished. If the cream should come out to runny it´s simply just to pour it back in the pan and heat for another minute or so before mixing again. Add salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Put the cream in a piping bag or an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Ciabatta Crisps: Freeze the ciabatta. Slice the ciabatta while still frozen (this will improve your chances to get really thin crisps) preferably with a mandolin, but if your knife skills are good you could also use a sharp bread knife. 1 ciabatta gives around 40 crisps. Place the slices on a tray lined with a parchment paper. Drizzle some olive oil over the bread and scatter with fine salt. Roast in a 225 C° oven for 5-10 minutes or until crisp and golden. Let the crisps cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container and the crisps will last for several weeks.

To serve: Roast the hazelnuts in a 175 C° oven for a few minutes. When the shells starts to crack open take the nuts out of the oven and place in a kitchen towel. Rub the shells of the nuts while still warm; but be gentle you don´t want to end up with burns on your fingers. Place them on the tray again and roast for a few minutes or until golden. Let cool and chop roughly. You could buy already peeled hazelnuts and roast them in a skillet if you want to make things easier for yourself. Fill a big pot with water and some salt and set to boil. Brown the butter on medium heat until it takes on a golden color and starts to smell nutty and caramelized. Peel the asparagus and break off the woody ends. When the water is boiling add the asparagus and blanch (quickly boil in salted water) for a few minutes. They should still have a slight bite when finished. Remove and place into ice water to stop the cooking process. Place 3 asparagus on each plate, top with a slice of Parma ham, ciabatta crisps, a few dollops of Parmesan cream and roasted hazelnuts. Drizzle one or two spoons of browned butter on top.

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