Ella played violin on the deck while wrapped in her winter coat. Chloe and I threw the Frisbee after dinner as the sky began to gloam and settle into night. In the dusk of a day that moved toward darkness, we were free to enjoy a moment of carefree play. In that moment, we also discovered that in only a few short days, the asparagus has arrived and is ready for it’s first picking.
Asparagus, that vital and vigorous harbinger, marks the beginning of a garden season. It’s been so warm recently that the shoots have emerged out of the now warm soil with a liveliness that I cherish.
This dish is one that honors the special and very seasonal nature of homegrown asparagus as well as our much lauded Maine lobster.
Lobster, Asparagus and Spinach with Dilled Gnocchi
3 whole 1 1/2 pound soft shell lobsters
2 cups onions, sliced; about 1 large onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 3 cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch asparagus, stems removed and cut into 1-inch lengths
8 ounces spinach, stems removed and thoroughly cleaned and rinsed
In a large stock pot, bring 1 inch of salted water to a boil. Carefully add the lobsters to the pot and cover. Steam for 5 to 7 minutes or until the bodies have just turned completely red. Remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs to a large bowl to cool. Transfer the liquid to a large measuring cup or other heat proof bowl or container.
In the same large pot, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook the onions over medium-high heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and sauté for another minute. Add the flour and stir to incorporate well. Add the white wine and reserved lobster stock and whisk briskly for a minute or two. Bring to a boil and add the heavy cream.
While the sauce is coming to a boil, remove the lobster from the shells in whatever way your grandmother taught you or with picking tools. Reserve any liquid.
Taste for salt and pepper and add the asparagus. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and then add the lobster meat, any reserved liquid and spinach, stirring well to incorporate. When the spinach is wilted, turn off the heat and wait for the gnocchi to be finished if needed.
6 russet potatoes
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of fresh white pepper
2 tablespoons minced dill
1/4 cup semolina flour (optional)
In a large stock pot, cover the potatoes with salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the potatoes are cool, peel and push through a ricer onto the counter. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and add the eggs, dill, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork into the potatoes. Add 3 cups of flour to the potatoes with 1 cup in reserve. Only add if needed to keep the dough from sticking. Combine with hands and a bench scraper until the flour is completely incorporated. Work the dough as little as possible.
Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and roll into 4 1/2-inch logs. Dust the board with semolina or all-purpose flour when needed. Cut the logs into 1/2-inch pieces with the bench scraper and using either a gnocchi board or a fork roll the pieces across by pressing your thumb and pulling the dough into a curl. Transfer to the boiling pot of water and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for several minutes until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Drain and serve immediately with sauce.
Serves 6 to 8 people