The most important thing I learned making this recipe is that I cannot poach an egg to save my life. I am not the world’s most enthusiastic egg eater in the first place so it’s really not shocking that I have few egg-making skills. I’ll happily eat an omelette or Eggs Benedict but I’m not likely to order scrambled eggs or even less likely a poached or hard-boiled egg for no good reason. So my eggs are really embarrassing looking. Please forgive them.
This recipe is fairly straightforward: it’s grilled asparagus, prosciutto, the dreaded poached eggs and a little culinary accessory I’m now calling The Devil’s Croutons. Not only do you cook the bread in an unseemly amount of oil and butter but he won’t even let you drain them when they’re done. No, they have to rest in their own fat! Needless to say, they’re a kind of heroine and you should get them out of your sight as fast as possible.
I think the asparagus I bought for this was a bit too thin. It tasted great but I think it would have been a far less messy presentation if I was able to line them up in a slightly more orderly fashion.
The verdict from the family (and me) is that this is delicious and really very pretty despite my amateurish eggs and messy asparagus.
The Devil’s Croutons (aka Torn Croutons)
[I'm giving you TK's shortcut here so you don't also have to make Garlic Confit]
Makes 3 cups
1 loaf country bread [I found that half of a 1 lb. loaf was the perfect amount]
5 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) unsalted butter
Pour 1/8″ of canola oil into a saute pan, add the garlic and heat over low heat until the cloves are golden brown, flipping from time to time. Remove the garlic and reserve for another use.
Cut the crusts off the bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2″. You need about 3 cups of croutons; reserve any remaining bread for another use.
Bring the oil up to medium heat. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (if your pan is not large enough, these can be cooked in two smaller pans). Add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. Adjust the heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until the croutons are crisp and a beautiful rich golden brown on all sides, 15-20 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. (Do not drain on paper towels; you want the flavors of the oil intermingled with the other ingredients as you eat the croutons in a salad). Torn croutons should be used the day they are made; you can reheat them in a low oven before serving if necessary.
From Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 large eggs
2 bunches pencil-thin asparagus
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
2 cups Devil’s Croutons
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Fleur de sel
To poach the eggs, bring 6-8 “ of water to a boil in a large deep saucepan [ok this is problematic for a couple of reasons. One, my next-to-largest pot is barely 6” high. Is it really necessary to poach one egg at a time in 2 gallons of water? I also think this may have, at least partly, contributed to the delinquency of my eggs. The water is so deep that they immediately sank to the bottom and got all raggedy]. Prepare an ice bath. Add the vinegar to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup or ramekin. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water at the edges of the pan twice in a circular motion to get the water moving [“twice,” really? Not once not three times? I also think this made my eggs get all crazy and they were much better when I lowered them into simmering water that was not going in a circular direction], then add the egg to the center of the pan and simmer gently for 1-1/2 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the egg to the ice bath. Skim and discard any foam that has risen to the top of the water, and cook the remaining eggs one at a time. (The eggs can be poached several hours ahead and stored in ice water in the refrigerator).
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for cooking over medium heat or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat when you are ready to cook the asparagus. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
[Keller then goes into an overly-fetishistic method for trimming the asparagus but I just cut a good quarter off the bottom]. Spread the asparagus out on the parchment-lined pan, generously coat with canola oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the asparagus on the grill, or cook in batches in the grill pan. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side until tender. Arrange on a platter.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer [I just left the pot I had poached the eggs in out on the stove]. With a small pair of scissors, trim any uneven edges from the poached eggs. Lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Remove the eggs with a skimmer or slotted spoon and blot the bottoms with paper towels. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and arrange around the asparagus.
Arrange the prosciutto and croutons on the platter. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic, and sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.