Recipe for ham and asparagus frittata
Published: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 1:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 1:54 p.m.
Untamed, asparagus can grow to 6 feet or more.
We discovered this a few years ago when we bought our home. Previous owners had allowed plantings of raspberries, rhubarb and asparagus to go wild in the backyard. By the time our moving truck pulled up, everything had grown beyond edible.
Hoping to reclaim the space, we rented a tiller and attacked. The raspberries and rhubarb are now contained and productive, but the asparagus apparently didn't survive the ordeal.
How disappointing. Crisp asparagus is one of spring's treats and I had hoped to harvest my own - just not from all over the lawn.
The trouble with asparagus, no matter what the source, is that it isn't a great solo vegetable. With the help of just a bit of butter and salt, corn, potatoes and carrots can comfortably stand on their own. Asparagus just seems to need more.
Maybe a tart sauce, such as a balsamic reduction. Or something creamy, maybe a cheese sauce. Try chunks of Gouda whisked into hot milk with a bit of garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper.
Bacon also goes well with asparagus. Wrap each spear in a slice of bacon and roast in the oven until the bacon is crisp and the asparagus is tender. This also works well on the grill.
For a cool version of the bacon wrap, try prosciutto. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then place them in cold water to cool. Pat them dry, then wrap in prosciutto.
And, of course, asparagus is a great match with eggs. I like arranging a dozen or so spears atop a frittata, then blanketing the whole thing with cheese before popping it under the broiler for several minutes.
For this spring dish, I added a bit of ham. I used leftovers from an Easter dinner, but roughly chopped deli slices would work just as well. Bacon - either strip or Canadian style - would work, too.
Be sure to use an ovensafe skillet, as the dish begins on the stovetop and is finished under the broiler. Avoid nonstick pans, as the oven heat likely will be too intense for them.
When shopping for asparagus, select spears that are thin and firm, about the diameter of a pencil. If the asparagus is any thicker, consider using a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin.
Ham and Asparagus Frittata
(Start to finish 20 minutes)
8 to 12 asparagus stalks, bottoms trimmed
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms
1 cup chopped cooked ham
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Preheat the broiler.
While the water heats, trim the asparagus spears to fit in a circular pattern in a large skillet (similar to the hands of a clock).
Once the water is boiling, blanch the asparagus by adding them to the water and cooking 2 to 3 minutes, or until just barely tender and bright green. Transfer the asparagus to a colander and run under cool water. Set aside to drain.
Lightly coat the skillet with cooking spray and set over a medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the onion and mushrooms and cook until the onions are just tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the ham to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until heated through.
While the ham cooks, whisk the eggs and 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to medium. Use a wooden spoon to spread the onions, mushrooms and ham evenly across the skillet. Pour the eggs over the vegetables and ham. If needed, tilt the pan to ensure the eggs spread evenly.
Cook until the edges of the egg are done and the center begins to bubble, about 4 minutes. The eggs will not be fully cooked at this stage, but will finish under the boiler. Arrange the asparagus spears in a circular pattern in the skillet, then top with the cheese.
Place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.
Makes 4 servings.
EDITOR'S NOTE: J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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