I love asparagus. I love it steamed, grilled, pan-fried and just about any way in between including asparagus soup. While asparagus is generally an early spring crop, in most well-stocked markets, it can be had throughout the year. The younger, narrow asparagus render the best, most delicate flavor. The older, thicker stalks tend to be more woody, tough and somewhat bitter. Most of the issues with a later harvest can be overcome simply by “trimming” the wood (bend the stalk, it will snap where the “wood” begins) and using a vegetable peeler to remove some of the tougher outer skin, revealing the light color within.
To me, asparagus and Easter go hand in hand. I suppose this stems from the fact that the height of the asparagus season in California is late March through April. I adore blanched asparagus wrapped in thin slices of ham as an appetizer for Easter. So you can appreciate my excitement when I came across a recipe at Wives With Knives (love the name!) that took the concept of ham wrapped asparagus one step further by added Phylo Pastry. (See original recipe at http://www.wiveswithknives.net/2012/06/05/prosciutto-wrapped-asparagus-in-crispy-phyllo/)
It’s pretty, presents well and the asparagus can be assembled ahead of time. If desired, add a strip of roasted red bell pepper to the wrap for a hint of red and green. Won’t that be nice at Christmas time?
Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
24 large asparagus spears
½ pound prosciutto or very thinly sliced deli ham
1 package Phylo pastry
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim asparagus spears to about 7″ long. Peel the bottom 3-4 inches of the spear with a potato peeler. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the spears for 30 seconds. Do not overcook asparagus at this point as they will finish cooking in the oven. Remove asparagus from the water and cool on a wire rack or plate.
When spears are cool, snugly wrap each one in a small piece of ham.
Open the pastry sheets and remove one at a time from the packet. Cut the sheets in half on the narrow side. Brush lightly with butter. Lay an asparagus spear on the pastry. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and a bit of black pepper. Roll as tightly as possible and place on a baking tray. Repeat with remaining asparagus.
Brush rolls with a little more melted butter and sprinkle with a pinch of Parmesan cheese. Refrigerate tray until ready to bake. These can be made in advance to this point. Just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready for them.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Pile the spears on a plate and serve warm with Hollandaise Sauce for dipping.
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pinch fine sea salt
1 pinch white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, whisk the egg yolks, lemon and lime juice and water constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and continue whisking for about 1 minute more, but remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture thickens.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper and blend until smooth. Turn blender off, and allow to cool for 1 minute.
With the motor running, slowly pour in the melted butter in a thin stream until incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and keep warm over very low heat.
Transfer sauce to a bowl and serve with asparagus as a dipping sauce.