Here is a simple spring appetizer that anyone can do. It takes minimal prep and this is really something that can be put together in no time. I made this one just the other day at the peak of Asparagus season. I just landed off the plane and had a dinner to make that evening for guests. By the time I made it to work I had two hours to basically make a 3 course dinner. Here was the first course in that dinner. It takes a classic pairing of asparagus and hollandaise. I added a few other ingredients to put a little twist on a classic dish. I added olive, petite basque cheese, and some radish. There is only a few ingredients to use in this dish so the execution must be perfect. Nothing to hide behind in this dish. When these ingredients all come together it is a perfect marriage of flavors. Here is the recipe I hope you enjoy!
2 bunches of large asparagus peeled
2 red radish juilenned
2 oz of petit basque
1 cup of black beldi olives de-seeded and pureed
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp of white wine
8 oz of melted butter (clarified if you have it)
1 small lemon juiced
Salt to taste
Radish and chive flowers to garnish
For the asparagus,
Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil. The salt needs to be very heavy so the water taste salty. Trim the asparagus of the bottom stalks and peel the rest of the stalk up to the tip. Place the asparagus in the water and cook until they are just done. This is the crucial point. You want to cook them for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes until they are just tender. You don't want a heavy crunch to the asparagus. Believe me this was one thing I learned from a french chef. The way I was taught normally was to blanch them so they are still crunchy. But leave these ones in just a little longer until they just have cooked all the way through without over cooking and turning to mush (shouldn't happen in 2 minutes). I know this might sound contrary to what most teach. But believe me when the asparagus still have their integrity and cut almost like butter paired with the olive and hollandaise it truly is magical. Immediately take out and place in a water bath. Take out and drain on a paper towel. Place beldi olives in a food processor and pure until smooth (I didn't add any oil). I trimmed the stalks of the asparagus a little more and used them as little pieces on the plate. Take a piece of plastic wrap and place flat on the counter. Take a tiny off set spatula and place a small rectangle of olive puree on the plastic wrap. Then take one asparagus and roll the olive around the asparagus using the plastic wrap. Use your fingers to flatten and make it unified. Then unwrap the plastic and place on a plate for later. Continue until 2/3 of the asparagus are done. I left a few without for the top of the dish.
For the hollandaise,
Place egg yolks and white wine into a stainless steel bowl. Place over a double boiler or a pot with a little water in it simmering. With a whisk continuously stirring, whisk the egg yolks until they are thick and a airy but not scrambled. Take the bowl off the heat. Make a ring with a towel and place the bowl in the ring (this allows you to pour the butter with one hand and stir using the other hand without holding the bowl). Slowly pour in the butter, a ladle at a time stirring constantly. Season with salt and lemon juice. Keep in a warm place.
Place a large spoonful of hollandaise on the plate. Place two asparagus on the hollandaise. Then place a few of the stalks around the sauce and in between the asparagus. Add the radish and finish with strips of petite basque cheese, radish, and chive flowers. Serve and enjoy this simple but delicious dish!