Excerpted from “The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook,” Little, Brown, 2015
Because my grandmother liked asparagus so much, my grandfather took special care with his plants. Now I am carrying on the tradition. For this recipe, I like thin, young asparagus. I cook them in a skillet even when I am working over a grill, to make sure the smoky flavor doesn’t overwhelm, only heightens. I top the asparagus with gribiche, a French sauce, traditionally an emulsion of hard-boiled egg yolk and oil perked up with pickles and herbs. I like a rough-chopped version, and prefer to use the whole egg. I quick-pickle my own carrots (which is very easy) and put them in the sauce, but if you prefer another pickle, don’t hesitate.
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and cut in half lengthwise, then each half into quarters or sixths
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. gin
¼ tsp. black peppercorns
½ tsp. honey
Blanch the carrots in boiling salted water until tender, about four minutes. Drain in cold water and transfer to a small bowl or jar.
Combine vinegar, gin, ½ cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add peppercorns and honey. When the honey is dissolved, pour the pickling liquid over the carrots. Cover and set aside for at least an hour, then refrigerate. The pickle will keep for a month in the refrigerator.
FOR THE GRIBICHE (egg topping)
1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, picked and chopped
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions, finely chopped
Pickled carrot, chopped, plus 1 Tbsp. of the pickling juice
FOR THE ASPARAGUS TOAST
16 thin asparagus spears, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
4 slices sandwich bread, toasted
Bring a pot of water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Add eggs and cook eight minutes. Drain, run under cold water, and peel. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow yolks to set.
Mix together parsley and olive oil in a medium bowl. Generously season with salt. Add scallions, pickled carrot, and pickling liquid. Chop the eggs into the gribiche and season to taste with salt (makes 1 cup).
Keep the gribiche in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Use any leftover on crostini, sandwiches or salads or as a sauce for poached fish.
Prepare the asparagus and toast. Cut asparagus spears into 3-inch lengths. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. When it’s melted, add asparagus and cook, turning spears in the butter until they are bright green and just tender but not yet soft, about three minutes. Season to taste with lemon and salt.
Place asparagus on pieces of toast, top with gribiche, and serve.