I just spent several days in Philadelphia hanging out with a group of small(ish) family grocers. Food highlights were the excellent burger at Bank & Bourbon on arrival, a Yards rye ale, followed by a flight of bourbons that finished with a very good special barrel from Knob Creek specifically for the bar. Last night's dinner at Spraga was great—what a lovely room. The starting foie and ginger soup (I think they said foie) was outstanding, as were the duck and lobster pastas. Highly recommend. Also spent some time tasting amazing cheeses at DiBruno Bros. on Chestnut Street. Fabulous Von Trapp Oma, a raw milk cheese that had great balance of flavor and richness.
I'm off now to Minneapolis to see some more grocery stores and attend the AWP conference. I'm on the road and busy, so Emilia has pulled this post from the archives--it's a great dish. And it highlights the magical egg. I'll be in NYC for the Beard awards for that book in two weeks and looking forward to it. I hope Egg wins, but it's up against the formidable Jennifer McLagan, whose superb book, Bitter, is also nominated. Several years ago Charcuterie was up against her book, Bones I think it was, also superb. Too superb, in fact! Because it won. And she may well win again. Which will be fine with me as more people need to know about her very cool and individualistic books. I'll be back here next week. Happy cooking to all!—MR
Pasta, Asparagus, and an Egg
Originally Posted July 22, 2013
I was about 24 hours into my vegan experiment, planning to prepare pasta with asparagus and olive oil. In Ruhlman's Twenty, I write about what a felicitous pairing scallops and asparagus are and make a sauce by pureeing the stems and mounting the puree with butter, serving the reheated tips as garnish. Finding myself with a good bunch of asparagus, I thought, "I'll bet pureed asparagus makes an excellent sauce for pasta. But still it's going to need a little oomph. Hmmm. Perhaps some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Oops, not strictly vegan. But maybe just a few shaving, it'll taste sooo much better." I was hungry, and the dish needed a little extra something, which in so many instances is solved simply by adding an egg. Oh hell, why not mount a good deal of butter into that beautiful pureed asparagus and top the plate with a chicken's egg.
Thus, my experiment in veganism came to a close with an absolutely fabulous, intensely asparagus-y pasta topped with more asparagus, cheese, and a fried egg. Worth every compromise. Looks like my own Ruhlman's "twenty" will be sticking around for a while longer.
The following recipe will serve two full portions or four starter courses. The eggs can be poached rather than fried if you wish.
If you liked this post, take a look at these links:
- My past posts: How to Make a Mushroom Sauce Without a Recipe, Moscow Mule, and Meat Broths & Stocks.
- My video: Guerrilla cooking demo—a weekday meal: Tomato Basil Pasta Using Tomato Water.
- Here is a brief history of asparagus. Did you know that it is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas?
- Know the origin of your Parmesan cheese.
© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.
ASPARAGUS, PASTA, AND EGG
- 1.5 pounds asparagus, boiled till tender and shocked in ice water (save some of the cooking water)
- 2 ounces butter
- Salt to taste
- 2 to 4 eggs
- Vegetable oil for frying egg
- Pasta as needed, 4 ounces dried per serving, cooked, oiled, kept warm
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut off the asparagus tips, put them in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.
- Cut the stems into 1-inch pieces and puree them in a blender, adding just enough of the reserved cooking water to get the puree going. Transfer the puree to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then swirl in the butter, keeping it moving till the butter is completely incorporated. Add a four-finger pinch of salt. Keep warm.
- Fry the eggs over high heat till the white is set, or cook as you wish.
- While the eggs are cooking, reheat the asparagus tips in a microwave (you might want to toss with a little olive oil or butter first).
- Toss however much pasta you feel like serving with the sauce till it's evenly coated. Divide among plates. Grate cheese over each and top with the asparagus tips, followed by the egg.
- Crack pepper over the eggs and serve.