I attribute my early-in-life distaste for asparagus to my grandmother's habitual over-cooking of all things green, but now I love to eat it raw and flash-cooked. And now is the time.
Last week I wrote about rhubarb bursting forth from the garden. Next in line in spring's parade of gifts is asparagus. When it comes, it really comes. Bundles of it give a new fresh texture to the market, their tight little cone heads poking up into the sun.
Since we're talking about grilling this week on The Kitchn, I wanted to share a recipe from my last book, Good Food to Share. It's a lightning-fast way to cook asparagus with fire, bringing out the best of this spring vegetable.
When it's finally warm enough for an alfresco lunch and asparagus is flooding my local farmers' market, this is the recipe I make to celebrate. It's also great with a softly poached egg: the warm yolks ooze over the tender-crisp spears and create a beautiful contrast with the mustard-y and bacon-y vinaigrette. Pour a cool, crisp white wine and tear up a baguette: you have the perfect lunch.
I promise, this is not your grandma's asparagus.
Grilled Asparagus with Bacon Vinaigrette
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 pound slender asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large frying pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, and thyme. Carefully pour the bacon fat through a fine-mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup. Slowly whisk the bacon fat into the vinegar mixture until smooth and emulsified. Taste the dressing. If it is too strong, adjust with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, preheat a gas grill to high, or heat a grill pan over high heat. Pat the asparagus dry and put on a platter or in a baking dish. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and roll the asparagus in the oil until well-coated. Season with salt. Arrange the asparagus directly over the heat on the grill rack or place in he pan and cook, turning as needed, until nicely browned in spots on all sides without burning, 6-8 minutes.
Crumble the bacon into small pieces. Arrange the asparagus spears on a plater, pour the dressing over, and scatter the bacon over the top. Top with a few grinds of papper and serve warm.
• This recipe comes from Sara Kate's latest cookbook: Good Food To Share (Amazon)
• Related: Recipe: Asparagus Ribbons
(Recipe reprinted with permission from Weldon-Owen, a division of Bonnier. Image: Ray Katchatorian)