Monday, May 9, 2011
Asparagus Harvest Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
It’s sad but true that asparagus mimosa, or anything “mimosa” for that matter, feels woefully outdated. Dinner parties in sunken drawing rooms where food was served in frilly hostess aprons come to mind, as do 3 martini lunches, beehive updos, and the fare at my grandfather’s club, where the menu was about as fresh as the clouds of pipe smoke that hung heavy in the air.
Mimosa is a preparation in which some main player, usually a vegetable, is garnished with hard boiled egg that’s been pushed through a sieve until it resembles, roughly, the overflowing, frothy blossom of the mimosa tree. It was the height of chic about 60 years ago, but one doesn’t run into it too often anymore.
The problem is, of course, that “mimosa” initially caught on, and then stuck around for so long, with good reason. Despite its stodgy visual flourishes, it is inarguably delicious, especially on asparagus. The spears, blanched just to the point of sweetness, are tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette, laced with a touch of that spring-iest of herbs, tarragon. I’ve never been one for “mimosa-ing.” Instead I just slice my hardboiled eggs into rounds and lay them over the top of the warm green spears and season with good salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper.
Don’t be fooled by how simple it all sounds. The genius of asparagus mimosa is the sublime rubble that forms as you start to eat. The barely cooked egg yolk crumbles into the twangy mustard and tarragon vinaigrette to form a sunny dressing for the asparagus. Think of it as a wholly modern, deconstructed béarnaise sauce.
I keep hardboiled eggs in the fridge through asparagus season, just so I can make this on market days. We’ve got about 3 more weeks until the field herbs are in, but the dish makes a perfect celebration of spring even without the tarragon. Just remember that, as with all vegetables, the fresher your asparagus, the less cooking time it needs. And conversely, eggs are harder to peel the newer they are. If your eggs are farm fresh, and time (and asparagus season) allow, try keeping them in the fridge for three or four days before boiling them.
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 for a light lunch
1½ lbs fresh asparagus
1 tsp Dijon mustard
fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or slightly less of a less mellow vinegar)
a pinch or two of minced fresh tarragon (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 hardboiled egg per person (Here are good directions for how to make perfectly hard boiled eggs), sliced into rounds
Fill a medium-large pot with a few inches of water, salt well, and bring to the boil over high heat. Snap the ends off of the asparagus spears – they will break naturally where they go from tender to woody. In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, the vinegar, the tarragon, a generous grind of black pepper, and a good pinch of kosher salt. Now drizzle in the oil, whisking until combined. Set aside.
Blanch the asparagus until just tender – 2 - 3 minutes ought to do it, especially this time of year. Arrange in bundles on plates. Check the vinaigrette seasoning with salt if necessary and then drizzle as much or as little as you like over the asparagus. Arrange the egg rounds over the asparagus, season well with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.