A couple of years ago, I was very fortunate to be able to attend a day of cooking at the Alain Ducasse Cooking school.
The entrée that we worked on seems to be a very appropriate one to share with you today since it’s traditional to eat egg-based dishes for Easter but this time of year also marks the beginning of the green asparagus season…
This dish is relatively simple but so yummy and, if done correctly, very impressive at the table.
There are 3 main components to this dish:
- The green asparagus – des asperges vertes
- A green asparagus ‘coulis’ (sauce) – un coulis d’asperges vertes
- A soft boiled egg or mollet – un oeuf mollet
Ingredients For The Asparagus and Egg Recipe
- Green Asparagus (make sure they are crisp and do not bend)
- Chicken stock (substitute for vegetable stock if vegetarian)
- Good quality eggs (go at least free range, organic preferred)
- Olive Oil
How To Cook Asparagus
Take some firm green asparagus and snap the bottom part off (just bend the asparagus near the bottom and it’ll snap and break off at its natural ‘tender’ point) – this removes the tough part of the asparagus. Trim the edges neatly so that all asparagus have the same size. Do not discard the ends.
If your asparagus are on the tougher/thick side, peel a layer of the tough skin using a vegetable peeler while laying the asparagus flat on your work surface.
Cook the asparagus in a pan with some olive oil for about a minute and then add chicken (or vegetable) stock to the pan about half way up the asparagus.
Cover and let them cook for about 8 minutes and always watch that the liquid has not fully evaporated. Add more chicken stock to the pan a little at a time if it evaporates too quickly.
Ideally, at the end of the cooking time, there should be no liquid left in the pan so that you finish the last 30 seconds of cooking in the reduced stock. With a knife point, see if the asparagus are cooked through. Try to cook them on the al-dente side since they’ll go through another round of heat and you don’t want them to be overcooked.
Put them in a buttered oven-safe pan or cookie sheet and separate them so that they cool off as quickly as possible. Shred a generous amount of parmesan on the asparagus trying to leave the point ‘clean’.
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The Asparagus Coulis
Take the ends of the asparagus you snapped off and trim the brown edge if needed. Cut them into small pieces and roast in a pan with some olive oil for a minute or two then add a bit of chicken stock so they continue cooking in liquid for another 5 minutes. When they are tender, take out of the pan and let cool.
Put them in a blender, add salt/pepper to taste and add enough chicken stock to make a smooth coulis, add a dash of olive oil when you’ve found the perfect texture.
How to Cook “un oeuf mollet”
Make sure your eggs are at room temperature.
Put a pot of water to boil and add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water (this helps the white coagulate quickly if the egg cracks during the cooking process).
When the water is boiling, put the eggs in the water for 5 to 6 minutes depending on their size.
As soon as they are done cooking, place the eggs in a batch of cold water and ice to quickly stop the cooking process.
Remove the egg shell carefully so as not to break the egg.
Putting The Asparagus and Egg Dish Together
Put the asparagus + parmesan dish under a grill and let the parmesan get golden (be careful, burned parmesan is extremely bitter and will completely ruin your dish).
With a spatula, lift 3-4 asparagus at once and place them on a large plate. Place the oeuf mollet on the side and with a sharp knife, make an incision large enough so that the egg keeps its shape but the yolk starts to run out.
Finish the plate by placing some hot asparagus coulis around the whole plate and if you want, put some parmesan shavings to decorate the plate.
Serve right away…
Chef’s trick: Cooking the mollet egg ‘to order’ and serving it warm can be a little complicated and stressful. So how to the Ducasse cooks handle it? Just follow the egg mollet steps and once your egg is peeled, put it in ice water. Then hours later, you can just dunk it for a 45 seconds to a minute into a pot of water that just boiled and is off the fire. The egg will come back to room temperature/warmish but not cook further. :-)
Hope you liked this dish, I thought it was an incredible way to eat asparagus and I try to make it whenever I find good green asparagus. Try it and make sure you let me know how it turned out!
And to complete your Easter meal, I suggest you read my own Roasted lamb recipe, as well as Camille’s article on Easter traditions in France.