Monday, 12 March 2012
It will soon be fresh asparagus season over here and I can't wait. I think that the UK has some of the best asparagus in the world! Fresh asparagus is available pretty much all year round these days . . . but more often than not it is from Kenya . . . not the local seasonal stuff . . .
I just love asparagus. It epitomizes spring to me . . . like strawberries and Wimbledon, the three seem to go together hand in hand. It was not a vegetable we ever had in my home when I was growing up. I think I only ever tasted it once rolled inside some sandwiches at a childhood tea party and I wasn't sure that I liked it. It was probably tinned, and so it's no wonder . . .
Fresh asparagus is one of the true treasures of springtime. I love it slightly steamed and served with some lemon butter for dipping or with some rich and delicious hollandaise. I love it tossed with olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper and then roasted in the oven until it gets all slightly caramelized on the edges, and crispy tender inside. I know it's not quite fresh asparagus season just yet, but I can't help but getting a jump start on it.
Asparagus pairs up wonderfully with chicken . . .
*Chicken, Asparagus and Potatoes in a Garlic Cream Sauce*
I like to use Charlotte potatoes in this. They have a wonderful flavour and roast up nicely, keeping their shape. You will need two bunches of asparagus for this recipe.
500g of charlotte potatoes, cut into wedges (1 1/4 pound)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 TBS olive oil
4 single boneless chicken breasts (with the skin)
400g asparagus trimmed (about 1 pound)
a small packet of chopped pancetta lardons (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
125ml chicken broth (or dry white wine if you are so inclined, 1/2 cup)
2 TBS whole grain french mustard
300ml double cream (about 1 1/8 cup)
Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Combine the potatoes, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. Tip them onto a large shallow baking tray in a single layer. Roast uncovered in the heated oven for 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a tiny bit of oil and then brown the chicken breasts well on both sides. Place the chicken, in a single layer, over top of the potatoes and roast for an additional 10 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely done and the chicken juices run clear.
Steam or boil the asparagus for several minutes, until just tender. Drain and keep warm.
Place the pancetta lardons in a nonstick skillet and brown over medium high heat, until nicely crisped. Drain off all of the fat. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring until fragrant. Don't brown. Tip in the broth. Bring to the boil, scraping up the pan drippings and crispy bits. Boil until reduced by half. Add the cream and mustard. Bring back to the boil. Boil, stirring, until the mixture thicken slightly.
Divide the asparagus between 4 heated plates. Top with the potatoes. Spoon on half of the sauce. Lay the chicken breast on top and then spoon the remaining sauce over top. Serve immediately.