Because we have a thriving bed of asparagus, it’s on the menu much of the time right now – chilled with a shallot and lemon vinaigrette when it’s warm outside and served bright green and piping hot when it’s chilly. Snapping the fat tops off the green and purple-hued stalks was one of the daily “chores” for the girls, although they fought over who got to do it, rather than the more usual, “It’s not MY turn!”
An asparagus bed is fairly maintenance free once the roots are in and settled. Just keeping it fed and weed-free is all it takes to produce enough sweet, grassy fronds until you almost tire of them and are looking forward to another vegetable to become your fascination. It takes three years before the plants are strong enough to handle a harvest. One can’t be greedy with an asparagus bed – clear cutting is a sure way to weaken a bed quickly. Some must always be left. These stalks then grow tall and fern like, with red berries dotting their fronds and are cut down in the fall.
When the bed first sprouts, the stalks are thick, the width of a strong man’s thumb and then, as the energy diminishes, they become thinner and easier to overcook. If there ever was a case to be made for al dente vegetables, asparagus is it. Err on the side of undercooked, if they are even a little over done they become unpleasantly mushy.
Enjoy the gray, chilly days of warm soups and bread, the days of hot kitchens will be here soon enough.
Pork, Potato and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus
Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork. This recipe was originally published in my cookbook, Sugar & Salt: The Orange Book.
1 1/2 cups diced parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice; about 2 parsnips
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 small onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
8 large eggs
Herbed Salt (below)
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onions. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the potatoes, parsnips, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar and poach the eggs ever so gently. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
Makes about 2 tablespoons