Spring asparagus salad recipe

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  • Yield: 4 Servings


For the Custard
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh lemon balm
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon agar agar
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
For the Sorrel Puree
  • 1 cup fresh sorrel leaves, or arugula, blanched with gangly stems trimmed off
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) olive oil
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) ice water
  • ½ teaspoon minced shallot
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
For the Asparagus and cucumber bundles
  • 16 jumbo asparagus, blanched, and trimmed of tough stems to about 6 inches in length
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • 1 English cucumber (unpeeled), thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
How to Make It
  1. Warm the lemon balm, buttermilk, and cream together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring the mixture just to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together in a small bowl the eggs, cornstarch, and agar agar. Whisk about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the milk-andegg mixture back into the saucepan, whisking continually.
  3. Bring the custard back to a boil, then whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. When the butter is incorporated and the sauce is thick and shiny, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. Push as much through the sieve as you can. Cool over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. Chill 20 minutes or until needed.
  5. To Prepare the Sorrel Puree
  6. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Reserve at room temperature until needed.
  7. To Prepare the Asparagus-Cucumber Bundles
  8. In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus spears with extra-virgin olive oil to coat, then sprinkle them with lime zest and season with salt and pepper. Reserve the remaining oil mixture for a later use.
  9. On a 12-inch square piece of plastic wrap, lay out 4 slices of cucumber, just overlapping, in a rectangle. You want the shorter side of this rectangle to be as wide as your asparagus is long. Bundle 4 asparagus and place them at the bottom of a shorter side of cucumber slices. Using the plastic wrap for support, roll the end of the cucumber rectangle up and over the asparagus. Pull back the plastic and keep rolling into a snug tube of cucumber-wrapped asparagus. Wrap the plastic over the completed tube. Roll the tube back and forth a time or two, if needed, to even it out. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the 4 tubes until needed.
  10. To Prepare the Eggs
  11. Fill a broad saucepan with about 2 inches of water, pour in the vinegar, add a big pinch of salt, and bring just to a boil.
  12. Break the eggs into individual ramekins.
  13. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, then slip the eggs into the water and simmer gently for 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and cover for 1–2 minutes.
  14. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place each on a separate section of paper towel to drain. Trim any ragged edges off the egg whites.
  15. Putting it all together
  16. Cut each asparagus-cucumber roll with a sharp knife into 3 even pieces. For each of the 4 servings, arrange the 3 pieces more or less in a line down the center of a large shallow bowl or plate. I place the section with the asparagus tips standing, tips up, then lay one on its side, and another standing. Spoon a couple of mounds of custard to either side. Drizzle a puddle of sorrel puree to the side of the asparagus. Nudge an egg off the paper towel and onto the plate near the asparagus.
  17. Arrange manchego cheese shards over and between. Toss leaves with the remaining olive oil and lime zest from the asparagus, and arrange a few on each plate. Sprinkle a few grains of salt and pepper over the plates. With a micro-plane, grate an almond or two over each plate and serve.

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