April 30, 2012

Spring, Sandwiched

I've had this sandwich bookmarked for a few weeks now.  But a few weeks ago the only asparagus I could find was pencil thin, limp and priced way too high.  These are not the qualities I look for when shopping.  Instead I just stared longingly at it on my computer screen, imagining its fresh flavor, its perfect representation of spring.   I needed this sandwich in my life.

Something familiar was speaking to me, but it took me a while to connect the dots.  You see, this is practically the spring vegetable version of the tuna nicoise sandwich I made way back when.  Almost.  This one is more elemental, simple.  You char some asparagus in a skillet, just enough to get a bit of color and caramelization on the outside, but keep some of that lovely crunch.  In the pan with that asparagus goes some crushed garlic cloves that first flavor the oil, then once they soften and sweeten a bit, get smeared on the bread.  The eggs, with their deep golden yolks (straight from some happy chickens on a friend's farm), lend some creaminess to the otherwise bright flavors.  Some mustard, my favorite pickled red onions, a squeeze of lemon and a good helping of dill round out the ingredients.  It sounds like more work than it actually is.

Asparagus is now flooding the markets and I've already begun to think of new ways to redo this sandwich.  Keep the asparagus as is, top it with a bit of sauce gribiche a handful of baby lettuces, thinly sliced cucumber and a few chopped kalamata olives.  Or toss lightly steamed asparagus in a mustard and caper vinaigrette and lay it over wild arugula.  Then pile on the hard boiled eggs, pickled red onion and fresh tarragon.  Each a new springtime collaboration.

Pair any of these with a colorful fruit salad and a chilled bottle of rosé and have yourself a perfect picnic.

Spring Asparagus Sandwiches
Adapted from TheKitchn

Measurements are hardly important here, but be sure to use the best quality and freshest ingredients. They're fantastic still slightly warm right after assembling, but if you don't mind sacrificing some crunch from the bread, wrap it all up and let it sit together in the fridge for a while before serving.  Perfect for a spring picnic.

Serves 2

about 12 medium spears of asparagus
2 pieces of baguettes, about 6"-7" inches long
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/4 cup pickled red onions
2 tablespoons French mustard
lemon juice to taste
fresh dill
salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus by cutting or breaking off the woody ends, then cut the spears in half length–wise as best you can.  Slice your hard boiled eggs.

In a large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the 2 cloves of smashed garlic. Sear the asparagus spears, about 3 minutes on each side, then remove from pan. You want a little bit of char, so don't move the asparagus very often. Split the baguette pieces in half.  Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toast the baguettes, cut side down in the same skillet just until it turns a bit golden.  Scrape/smear the garlic cloves that were cooked with the asparagus on one side of the toasted baguette, on the other side smear the mustard. 

Place half the asparagus on each sandwich, topped with sliced egg, dill, pickled onion and squeeze a little lemon over everything. Season with salt and pepper.

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