I've never had the kind of fancy dinner party where the host serves a "first course." But I will, and when I do, I'm going to serve this recipe, or something like it.
This dish is elegant, delicious, and best of all, it's pretty easy to make and can be done ahead of time. Basically, it's poached asparagus, served cold with a light vinaigrette and garnished with some grated hard-boiled egg.
The notes in The Book say that recipes like this were a mainstay on the menus of the grand hotels in a bygone era. A dish like this would have been called by the poetic name "Asparagus Mimosa" because the fluffy grated hard-boil eggs resemble mimosa blossoms.
Like I said, the preparation couldn't be easier, and so the taste return on the minimal time investment is pretty good. All you do is poach the asparagus for a few minutes in some boiling water and then plunge it into some icy water to stop the cooking. I cooked mine for just a minute longer than I should have, so even though it was a bit softer than I wanted it, it was still vibrantly green and flavorful.
While the asparagus cooled, I whisked together the vinaigrette of minced shallots, olive oil, sherry vinegar and a healthy helping of chopped fresh tarragon. I tossed the asparagus with a little bit of the dressing just to coat it, and then I served it by putting some of the asparagus on a plate, drizzling on a bit more of the dressing and topping it off with some grated hard-boiled egg. (I used The Book's fool-proof method for hard boiling an egg to produce a perfetly-set egg with a vibrantly yellow yolk and not a trace of green. Check it out.)
This was a really delicious dish. The interplay of the crunchy asparagus (I imagined what the asparagus would have tasted like if I hadn't overcooked it) with the fluffy cloud of grated egg was nice. The flavor of the vinaigrette was excellent, and could easily be put to use in a variety of other chicken or egg dishes. Tarragon (also called "dragon herb," who knew?) is one of the most singular and nearly indescribable flavors. It's also one of my favorites.
Believe it or not, this dish even stood up reasonably well to a few days of refrigeration (each of the elements stored in its own container).
Date Cooked: February 15, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
2 years ago