The pieces came together. Asparagus was peeled and cut into thick coins. Flavor came from the crisped prosciutto, the lemon, and the shallots. The surprise was in texture- that of the asparagus, but also the varied sized of minced lemon shallot, and prosciutto flakes. Simplicity came from how the asparagus was cooked- quickly sauteed, preserving its integrity and crunch. This was the most liked of three dishes I cooked. That made me happy.
Ingredients: 1 pound asparagus; 1/3 pound Prosciutto de Parma; 1 medium shallot, minced; the peel from one large lemon, minced and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice; 1/4 cup olive oil, salt to taste (coarse kosher salt for cooking and fleur de sel for finishing).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the prosciutto slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a Silpat. When the oven is ready put the prosciutto in and bake for about 10 minutes. Check at 8 minutes and rotate. If after 10 minutes, the prosciutto does not appear much drier and almost crispy, cook longer. Cooking time depends a lot on the accuracy of your oven, the surface you cook the prosciutto on, and the thinness of the prosciutto slices. When ready, break the now0-crispy prosciutto slices into 1/2 inch to 1 inch bits. Reserve in a bowl.
Peel the asparagus, trim the ends and tips, and discard. Cut the asparagus into 1/4 inch coins and reserve.
Prepare the shallot- peel and mince very small. Same for the lemon peel, except try mincing it a little smaller.
Pour the olive oil in a medium sauce-pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus and a sprinkle of salt and swirl it well in the pan making sure the coins are coated with the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the asparagus is a bright lively green color. The coins should be cooked but still have a crunch. Salt to taste and add just a dash of lemon juice.
Place the asparagus on the plates and add to each individual serving, the minced shallot, minced lemon, and bits of prosciutto. Adding these to the individual plates keeps their texture intact, unaffected by the temperature of the asparagus or the liquid released through the cooking of the asparagus.
Serve with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a drizzle of a great olive oil.
Photography by Jennifer Olson.