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.