City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Not local, but a welcome harbinger of spring

photo-74 Every year around this time Star Provisions brings in a shipment of giant California asparagus, with each spear as fat as an index finger. Nothing local about it, but there can’t be a better first bite of spring.

I love using it to make the dish pictured at left for a weekend lunch outside on the patio. A basket of warm, crusty bread is all you need on the side. (Then again, a chilled bottle of Muscadet doesn’t hurt.)

I brush the asparagus with olive oil; season it well with salt, black pepper and finely minced thyme; and grill it until it is steaming hot and well scorched all over. While it’s grilling, I cook some fresh farm eggs sunny side up in a bit of olive oil over low heat, covering the pan so the yolks come out runny but slightly thickened, and the whites lose their translucence. In another pan, I cook diced pancetta until it colors, then I deglaze the pan with a healthy splash of vinegar that is neither too acidic nor too sweet, such as Banyuls vinegar. No salt needed here. Everything ends up heaped on a plate with shavings of Parmesan cheese and a few more grindings of pepper.

Everyone gets one egg and three asparagus spears, which means it all gets sopped up, leaving us wanting just one bite more. The perfect portion on a spring afternoon.

15 comments Add your comment


March 28th, 2011
11:16 am

Yum. I want to make this dish with Hank Shaw’s duck fat hollandaise.


March 28th, 2011
1:29 pm

I saw my harbinger of Spring this weekend also. The first 2010 Rose of the year from Dom. Houchart in Provence.


March 28th, 2011
1:57 pm

Only one thing better in early spring than fresh fat asparagus from Star Provisions: pencil-think stalks snapped from your own bed of mature Mary Washingtons. Mostly, I must confess, I just eat them raw, right then and there. But those which survive to the kitchen are tossed quickly with the merest smear of EVOO and spritzed with fresh lemon juice. Lightly sprinkly on fleur de sel or sea salt and a grind or two of fresh green peppercorns and . . . Oh, Mama! Umami!
Another rare springtime indulgence is fiddleheads, the tiny curled fronds of ferns which need only be sauteed in sweet butter until al dente and maybe gilded with a droplet or so of balsamic from Modena.
My first affair with fiddleheads was at L’Espalier restaurant in Boston; the rest of the meal, while undoubtedly up to the chef’s high standards, is lost to history. But the crisp, buttery crunch of those fronds is alive and well in my memory!
Spring is a time for new things with very little adornment, like fall is a time for slow-roasted root veggies and deep, complex wine sauces.
Happy spring, all you fellow foodies!

Jenny Turknett

March 28th, 2011
3:10 pm

There may be a run on asparagus in Atlanta today after everyone reads this recipe!

Atl Starter

March 28th, 2011
6:11 pm

Can’t wait to try this. I’m not familiar with Banyuls vinegar. Know were I could get it in or around Decatur?


March 28th, 2011
6:36 pm

That sounds incredible John. I will be stealing this recipe!


March 28th, 2011
8:10 pm

Atl Starter, I’m sure you could get just about any kind of vinegar at the DeKalb Farmers Market.


March 28th, 2011
9:36 pm

Now that looks like the perfect brunch/lunch meal!! Thanks, John!


March 29th, 2011
8:40 am

Must. Find. Fiddlehead ferns. TODAY!

I admit I am lazy. I toss my asparagus with Spainish olive oil and season either savory or spicy and pop that pan in the over at 425 for 15 to 20 mintutes and out comes a yummy big pan of spring time hugs. When I am not so lazy I take the time to peel each stalk…it is best with the big fat asparagus. Then they pick up the roasted crispy yummy bits on the stalk easier and the heads don’t get too crispy.


March 29th, 2011
12:52 pm

Is it a myth that pencil-thin asparagus are more tender?


March 29th, 2011
2:06 pm

Not hardly, Lorenzo!
Consider the laws of physics. . .
To be completely accurate, many of the young shoots are even thinner than pencils.

Carla Roqs

March 30th, 2011
11:06 am

ummm, John, you can come and cook for me anytime.

fiddlehead fan

March 31st, 2011
10:05 am

I LOVE and miss fiddleheads since moving to the South. We used to harvest them by the garbage bag full in Maine. Such a delicacy. We also used to dig our own dandelion greens from our front lawn. Talk about local and organic. :)


April 1st, 2011
6:30 pm

Banyuls vinegar is also available at Star Provisions