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Asparagus Market Salad

It’s spring here at The Cook’s Atelier and this is one of our favorite dishes to celebrate the season. It is a beautiful dish and is perfect for breakfast, brunch or even the first course of lunch. This time of year, the Beaune market is filled with tender green asparagus as well as the creamy white variety with the violet tips. We head to the market early in the morning as our favorite vendor gathers them from his garden the morning of the market and if you arrive too late, they’ll be snatched up. The season is short for the white asparagus and if you are lucky, you can find wild asparagus, the thin bright green variety that looks like wheat, in a wooded area just after a spring rain. If we have the good fortune to find some, we always add it to the dish.

In France, it is still possible to find fresh eggs from backyard chickens. Eggs have a season and nothing quite compares to a fresh spring farm egg. The soft yolk in this recipe paired with the warm asparagus and vinaigrette makes for the perfect sauce. You can also add a handful of fava beans if you can find them at your farmers’ market.

We really enjoy plating this up individually as it makes such a pretty presentation. The colors and flavors bring out the best of spring. Be sure to serve this with a crusty loaf of bread and plenty of French butter.

Asparagus Market Salad with San Daniele, Fava Beans and a Fresh Farm Egg
Serves 4

For the salad:

Handful of thin, white asparagus, peeled
Handful of thin, green asparagus, peeled

Handful of fresh fava beans

4 pieces of prosciutto di San Daniele, thinly sliced

4 farm eggs, soft boiled (*see instructions below for Julia’s Oeufs Mollets)

Handful of garden radishes, sliced in half lengthwise
Fresh chervil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the salad, hold the asparagus spear and bend it to break off the less tender bottom end.  Trim all of the asparagus to the same length and peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Line a platter with paper towels and set aside.  Blanche the asparagus in batches in the boiling water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to the ice water bath to stop cooking, and drain on paper towels.

If adding fava beans, shuck them from their pods. Blanche the beans in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes. Plunge them into a bowl of ice water to cool them and preserve their color. Once cool enough to handle, pop the beans out of their grey-green skin to release the bright green bean.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer.  Lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat.  Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and blot the bottoms with paper towels.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar and olive oil and stir gently to form a broken vinaigrette. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the asparagus, prosciutto and radishes on the plate.  Place the egg on top.  Using a spoon, gently separate the egg in two to allow the soft yolk to pool.  Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with fleur de sel, pepper and chervil.

For the eggs:

2 quarts boiling water
4 eggs with uncracked shells, at room temperature

Lower the eggs into the boiling water and boil slowly for six minutes.  As soon as the time is up, drain off the boiling water and run cold water into the pan for a minute to set the white, and to cool the eggs enough to remove the shells.  Tap gently on a hard surface to break the shells, peel carefully under a stream of water.  Just before serving, warm for a minute in a bowl of hot water.