There have been many delicious moments in the last few weeks, but the new crop of grassy spears demands that I share this recipe for asparagus gribiche, also known as asparagus mimosa. I love both names for this combination of asparagus and eggs because they make the dish seem so divinely continental, while in reality it is so simply executed.
After a riotious and hilarious knitting retreat (okay, admit it, you never thought those words would go together), I ferried to Marthas Vineyard. T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruellest month, and it was certainly challenging for my beloved friends, siblings Katrin and Dave.
There is no more family after the two of them are gone, we’re not (any of us) getting any younger, and keeping up after a home built in 1680 was demanding. So Katrin and Dave were closing up the family house, I was there to feed them and herd them along (I’ve done this before — it seems to be a talent of mine?) The house will sell in a few days. It was time to say farewell.
Decades of *stuff* had to be moved out, one way or t’other. Two island locals run an estate sale business and gave us the marching orders. We had three days to clear out personal things and any food. They would handle the rest.
We sifted through drawers and filled boxes, carted photo albums away, dug through the attic, the backs of cupboards, the very top shelves. Katrin and Dave boxed up a few treasures they would each take back to their own homes.
I cooked each night, starting with oyster stew, filling our bellies with satisfying but simple-to-make dinners. Most of the kitchen equipment had already been packed off, so I made do with two pots, a sauté pan and a knife that had seen better days. I’ve cooked dozens of meals in that kitchen and I suppose this meal making was my own way to say goodbye.
Once back in DC, after writing three stories (coming soon), developing a couple of recipes (ditto), attending a marvelous Seder, and teaching a class to some terrific kids, houseguests arrived from Mexico. Our friends from Tepotzlan (about whom I’ve written here and here) are sensational hosts and (naturally) I work to up my game when they’re here.
I hosted two dinner parties in three days. Janet is a brilliant mind on every subject but especially food, culture, art and literature and how they all intersect. But she’s particularly fabulous at table settings. So she set this and other gorgeous tables.
I have been testing some recipes for my pal David Hagedorn who is currently working on a cookbook from Vikram Sunderam, James Beard winning Chef at Rasika. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in town, an Indian restaurant like no other. So, with all those recipes to test, the first dinner party was Indian themed. I suggest you put this cookbook on your 2017 radar because it’s going to be sensational.
For the second dinner party, I relied on Kho Kian Lam’s award-winning cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. His charming tone and helpful descriptions of Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients are so encouraging. I served a meal based on new crop vegetables with an unctuous, deeply flavored braised pork belly served over rice, “Red Cooked Pork.” The recipe was flawless and the party was terrific fun.
I’ve been enjoying pea shoots and tiny spinach leaves, bright tender lettuces, new strawberries, and dozens of barely steamed skinny asparagus spears. After all that cooking, all those meals, the dish I can’t wait to return to is this simple asparagus gribiche.
PS Calendar check! Don’t forget to start this year’s batch of chive blossom vinegar.
Asparagus Gribiche or Mimosa
6 medium cooked eggs, peeled
Two bunches asparagus
Juice of one lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup excellent olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives (Honestly, I don’t usually measure the herbs, just grab, chop and add)
2 tablespoons minced parsley (see above)
2 or 3 generous pinches of salt
Several grinds of the peppermill
Line a baking sheet with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towel. Prepare a large ice bath (a bowl of ice water.)
Clean the asparagus. If the spears are slim, trim or snap off the tough ends. If the spears are chubby, use a vegetable peeler to scrape the tough outer peel away.
Place the spears in a wide, lidded skillet and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2-inch. Turn the heat to high, bring the water to a boil, cover the pan and cook the asparagus for 3 to 6 minutes, depending the thickness of the spears. I watch for the color to turn bright green. Remove the pan from the heat, drain the asparagus and add them to the ice bath just until cool, then drain and place in a single layer on the baking sheets.
Mash 2 of the egg yolks in a small bowl, stir in the lemon juice and mustard. Set the bowl on a folded towel to stabilize it. Whisk the oil into the egg yolk mixture in a slow dribble. The dressing will be creamy and smooth. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and taste. It should be a little salty.
Chop the remaining eggs and the two leftover whites as finely as possible (or push the eggs through a cooling rack for a very even dice – seriously – I saw Carla Hall do it on The Chew. It’s brilliant!)
Find a broad platter with a rim. Spread out the asparagus, drizzle 1/2 of the dressing over the spears, then top with the chopped egg, the remaining dressing, and a few scattered chives.