Stretch the first spears of spring into a meal by creating a light, yet flavorful, buttery broth that soaks into a crunchy slice of toasted bread. Garnish with chives or pea tendrils.  Make the dish more substantial by topping with poached eggs.

  • asparagus (6 spears and up, depending on supply)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 big slices of excellent rustic white bread (quality important; freshness not)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Trim off asparagus base, including any rigid part. If necessary, pare off any fibrous skin toward the base of each stalk. Warm up 2 large soup plates. A plowl would be a perfect serving vessel.

Put the water and butter into a frying pan (with a lid) large enough to hold the stalks lying down. Bring it to a simmer. Pop your bread in the toaster and toast it nice and brown and crunchy on the outside. Keep warm.

Place the asparagus in the simmering buttery water. Cover the pan. Simmer 5 minutes. Check for tenderness, which will depend on the thickness and age of the asparagus, not to mention your own proclivities. (That said, this dish is best when the stalks are cooked just a tiny bit more than our usual crisp-tender.) Taste the broth for salt, and grind on some black pepper.

Set the toasts in the soup plates. Using tongs, divide the asparagus between the plates. Carefully pour the broth over, letting the toast imbibe the liquid. Serve instantly, with forks, knives, and spoons.

Serves 2 as a luxurious springtime supper.

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