11 June 2011

Poached Asparagus

This is a confession, not a recipe.  
We were delighted to discover a healthy asparagus plant sprouting alongside our front steps this spring.  We confirmed it was indeed asparagus with our propriétaire Madame J. (landlady), and then considered our culinary options.  Meanwhile, my husband prepared for another field season, left for said field season, and I was dully distracted by this and other things.

Fast forward about 3 weeks from initial date of our asparagus discovery.  I am standing with the fridge door open, facing the prospects of too much milk, too many potatoes, and dinner alone.  A chunk of hard cheese and the milk inspire a frittata (think quiche sans pie crust), and the asparagus pops into my head.  Dinner plans settled, I skip merrily out the front door, pop off a few of the thicker stalks (better harvest them first, before they get any tougher), and prepare what turned out to be a pretty tasty potato & asparagus something-like-a-gratin (fancy scalloped potatoes).  Sorry no photos - it didn't look anywhere near as good as it tasted.


Without my left-overs teammate, the gratin lasted a while.  One afternoon, shortly after I finished eating some for lunch, Madame came to the door.  She lives upstairs, so we often chat, exchange little morsels from cooking projects, etc.  She has encouraged us to make ourselves at home, and we have, completely.  


She said, "Madame, do you know who cut the asparagus out front?"  Uh ohhhh...she didn't look mad, but she clearly wasn't pleased.  
Me: "Yes...I did.  I'm sorry if that wasn't a good idea."
Mdme.: "No, that was not a good idea."
Me: "I only did it because asparagus grows more shoots when it is harvested.  If it was only one harvest, I would have left it for you.  If you'd like, I can look it up and confirm that for you."
Mdme.: "Oh, well if it grows back, then that's okay.  I hope you're right."  Yes, me too!


Later, after looking up asparagus cultivation as promised, I confirmed that it does indeed produce additional sprouts for several weeks each spring.  I shared this information with her, and explained that I really had harvested it because I thought it would be a shame if it all grew old and tough before anyone had a chance to eat it.  


She laughed and explained that she grew it just as an ornamental!  Once the harvest season is over, the remaining shoots (and you should always leave several) grow a few feet tall, and develop delicate leaves often described as fern-like.  To me they look more like giant dill with little seed pods at the ends.  It simply never occurred to me that she might grow edible plants and not eat them - that's the squirrel in me!


The rest of the story...
  • I diligently checked the plant daily for about a week or more, and finally spotted new sprouts (see first picture above). They are now as tall and hearty as the original remaining sprouts.  They have lots of big leaves fixing nutrients so the root crown should overwinter in good condition.
  • Mdme. was inspired by the harvesting concept, and plans to plant a row of asparagus crowns this fall.  They will line the front walk of our house, running from the porch to the sidewalk.  Her rationale: "We'll have enough to eat, and to enjoy looking at them!"  I heartily support the plan, and have offered to dig the trench when they're planted this fall.  
  • I was particularly excited about our asparagus plant because back in Montana are 30 asparagus crowns I planted in my old garden.  I moved before they were mature enough to harvest, and I can't help but wonder if they're being enjoyed today.  So, I'm tickled pink that we're going to have more here.  
  • There are a few other edible things, grapes and plums to name a few, that I've spotted in our yard.  I will not be harvesting one bite until I clear it with Mdme!




3 comments:

M said...

Et bien, voilà encore une ou deux chose intéressantes que j'ai apprises... D'abord comment dire « rosir de plaisir » en Anglais (même si je vais évidemment m'empresser d'oublier), et ensuite qu'on pouvait faire pousser des trucs qui se mangent sans vouloir effectivement les manger. Pour moi, c''est un peu comme d'imaginer un cerisier ou un plant de fraises comme des fruits ornementaux (rien que le concept m'amuse). Bref, autant dire que ça ne m'arrivera pas de sitôt (il faudrait déjà que j'ai un jardin).

Et maintenant l'heure culturelle. Une quiche sans pâte est tout simplement impensable. Simplement y penser me donne des frissons. Alors voici la recette inégalable de la quiche lorraine qui l'est tout autant, et l'on commence par la pâte brisée, qui est vraiment un jeu d'enfant.

Pâte brisée :
• 125 g de beurre salé (c'est indispensable)
• 250 g de farine
• un peu d'eau

Dans un saladier, mélanger la farine et le beurre coupé en morceaux (s'il a été sorti du frigo depuis un moment, c'est mieux, il sera mou et se mélangera plus vite) jusqu'à obtenir une texture sablée. Y verser environ 5 cL d'eau (en ce qui me concerne, c'est complètement au pif, et je rajoute un peu d'eau si besoin) jusqu'à obtenir une consistance lisse mais pas encore collante. Fariner le plan de travail, et rouler la pâte avec un rouleau à pâtisserie ou tout autre ustensile adapté. La placer ensuite délicatement dans un moule à tarte non beurré de 28 cm de diamètre (le plus simple est d'abord de la plier en 4 puis la déplier dans le moule). Pour finir, la piquer à l'aide d'une fourchette.

Appareil :
• 200 g de pancetta
• 100 g de jambon blanc épais
• une bonne portion de gruyère râpé (au moins 100 g)
• 3 œufs
• 20 cL de crème liquide et 20 cL de lait
• sel et poivre
• paprika, curry (optionnel !)

Commencer par faire revenir la pancetta en morceaux dans une poêle. Une fois que la pancetta a un peu grillé, on peut y faire revenir le jambon en dés (ça lui donnera un petit goût agréable). Pendant ce temps, mélanger dans le saladier utilisé pour la pâte les œufs, la crème et le lait. Salépoivrer. Et aromatiser à l'envie avec du paprika, du curry, ou n'importe quel variété d'épices qui semble faire l'affaire (ou qu'on a sous la main). Ajouter les lardons et dés de jambon à l'appareil.

Verser l'appareil dans la pâte, parsemer le gruyère râpé sur le dessus, puis placer le tout au four pour 40 minutes (je vérifie tout le temps à partir de 30'). En France, j'aurais fait préchauffer le four, mais ici les fours sont tellement efficaces que c'est inutile...

La quiche lorraine se mange chaude directement à la sortie du four, ou alors tiède en été, ou même froide le lendemain pour les amateurs !

Bon appétit !
M

Solianna Mt said...

Um, where exactly did you plant that asparagus? Just wondering - it's past season now.
Anne L

Bethann said...

Anne, This asparagus was here when we moved in.  So, we didn't plant it...we just found it when it came up last spring.  The good news, though is that Madame J. DID plant a few more crowns this spring!  So, we will have lots of asparagus for next year. :)

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