Asperges blanches habillées (White asparagus in blankets)

An inviting white asparagus starter or side dish from Rachel Knoo. Known as asperges blanches habillées, the finishing touch is in the Parma ham blanket.

Introduction

When I visit producers I always like to find out how they like to eat what they produce. Usually it’s the simplest way of cooking: a quick blanch, a lick of flame on the barbecue or a speedy steam. While visiting the Perroto family’s asparagus farm, Monsieur preferred his white asparagus blanched and served with a knob of butter and a sprinkle of salt, whereas Madame whisked up a quick asparagus omelette with a splash of white wine and served it with some Bayonne ham. When I was there, I tasted white spears fresh out of the ground. They were so sweet, delicate and crunchy that they barely warranted any culinary attention whatsoever, but rarely will food miles be so minute.

Les petites astuces – tips: You can replace the chives with any other aromatic herbs you might have, such as dill, parsley or marjoram. If you want to keep this vegetarian, add a handful of finely grated mature cheese to the egg mixture and omit the ham.

Faire en avance – get ahead: The asparagus can be cooked a day in advance, kept in the fridge and eaten cold.

Makes 8
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 20 min
Total time: 50 min

Ingredients

8 white asparagus spears
Salt
3 eggs
100ml milk
A small bunch of chives, finely chopped (approx. 15g)
8 slices of Bayonne or Parma ham

Instructions

Trim off the tough ends from the asparagus spears and peel the lower part about 5cm up the stem. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and blanch for 4–5 minutes, until they are just tender (test with a sharp knife). Plunge into a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, chives and a pinch of salt. When the pan is hot, remove it from the heat, pour in a small ladleful of the egg mixture and quickly swirl it around the pan to make a large pancake. Return the pan to the heat and cook for a couple of minutes.

Using a palette knife, gently peel back the pancake and turn it over. Cook for another couple of minutes or until lightly golden. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Keep the pancakes on a plate and cover with foil while you make the rest. Cut each pancake in half and wrap one half and a slice of Bayonne ham around each asparagus stem.

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