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Spring Eats

This is the best recipe for the day.

Asparagus with Parmesan Pudding and Prosciutto

It is one of those recipes that is so perfect you kind of don’t know what you did before it. It is something I will look forward to serving every spring from now until forever.

The recipe comes from April Bloomfield’s beautiful book, A Girl and Her Pig, which is a book that always makes me want to cook. In this recipe, Bloomfield brilliantly combines the eggs and Parmesan that pair so naturally with asparagus in a pudding. Add some toasted bread and thin slices of prosciutto and you have everything you need. I made this platter for lunch on Saturday and Bryan and Katie [1] and I all ate it up while almost constantly remarking on how good it tasted. It is one of those recipes that makes it hard to talk about much else.

The Parmesan pudding will keep for a day or two in the fridge, so feel free to make it in advance. If you do, bring it to room temperature before serving. The whole platter can be served at room temperature, so it is a nice thing to make if you have friends coming over for lunch. Of course you can serve this without the prosciutto, but it wont be as good. The next day we spread some of the pudding on toast and topped it with thinly sliced radishes and chives, which was a very good vegetarian option (pics on Instagram [2]!).

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the growing season as much as I am!

Asparagus with Parmesan Pudding and Prosciutto (adapted from A Girl and Her Pig [3] by April Bloomfield)

For the Pudding:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1-ounce chunk Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

For the Asparagus:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle
16 asparagus spears, a little thicker than a pencil, woody bottoms discarded
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
A very small handful of small, tender basil leaves
1/2 lemon
12 thin slices prosciutto
Grilled or toasted slices of rustic bread

Make the pudding: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine the cream and milk in a measuring cup. Pour half of the mixture into a medium pot, add the garlic, Parmesan, and salt, and set the pot over medium heat. Let the liquid come to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat. Whisk the hot mixture until it is smooth.

Combine the egg, egg yolk and the remaining cold cream mixture in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the hot blended mixture.

Pour the mixture into a small (2-cup) gratin dish. Fold a small kitchen towel into a square, put it into a large baking dish, and set the gratin dish on top. Pour enough water into the pot to come to about an inch from the dish’s rim.

Carefully put the dish(es) in the oven and cook 20-25 minutes, or just until the custard has set; it should be slightly firm around the edges but still wobbly in the middle. Remove the dish from the oven and let the custard cool in the water, then remove it. (You can refrigerate the custard overnight, if you wish. Serve it at room temperature.)

Make the asparagus: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy pan big enough to hold all the asparagus in one layer just until it begins to smoke. Add the asparagus to the pan, lining up the spears in the same direction. The oil should crackle and sizzle a bit. Give the spears a toss with tongs, sprinkle with a good pinch of salt, and spread out in one layer. Cook, turning the spears occasionally, until they’re golden brown in spots and tender but still snappy, about 6 minutes. Give one of the spears a squeeze—it should give just a little; it shouldn’t feel either very firm or mushy.
Just a minute before they’re done, sprinkle the basil over the asparagus and drizzle on a little more olive oil. Flip the spears with tongs and play with the basil a little, giving it time against the hot pan and then moving it back onto the asparagus. It’s nice if it gets just a little crispy.

Take off the heat and let the asparagus gently finish cooking in the heat of the pan, stirring now and then and sprinkling on a little more salt and a splash of lemon juice,  just until you can pick up a spear without scalding your fingers.

Serve the asparagus on a platter with the custard, prosciutto, and olive oil–lashed toasted or grilled bread alongside.