Asparagus, Poached Egg, Prosciutto, and Fontina Cheese
This open-faced beauty gets my vote for the most visually appealing sandwich. Like a slightly sheer and slinky dress, this sandwich leaves more up to the imagination: the melted Fontina and rumpled slices of prosciutto conceal the good things to come.
For grilling the bread, I prefer to use a home-style panini machine, a two-sided grill that resembles a waffle iron. The heavy metal grills apply pressure and heat to both sides of the bread or sandwich at once. There's no flipping necessary, and you don't need to exert any extra pressure on the sandwiches as they grill. Turn the panini machine to high and allow it to heat up for 5-10 minutes. For open-face sandwiches, spread a thin layer of softened butter on both sides of the bread. Close the top grill and cook them for a few minutes, until the bread is lightly browned. This practical and easy-to-use machine is the fastest, most efficient method for making grilled sandwiches.
If you don't own a panini grill, other techniques work fine. You can achieve the same effect with the coffee-shop method, using a heavy-bottomed pan, or better yet, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet with some clarified butter. For cooking the bread for the open-faced sandwiches, simply brush a little of the clarified butter over both sides of each slice, and lightly brown each side in the pan.
For grilling an open-face sandwich on a charcoal or gas grill, brush the bread with olive oil and grill it for a few minutes on each side.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Taste and Texturecrisp, savory
Type of Dishopen-face sandwich
- 16 to 20 stalks large or jumbo asparagus, tough ends broken off
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 20 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 3 ounces Fontina or Gruyere cheese, sliced into 4 1/8-inch-thick slices
- 2 ounces prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto di San Daniele, or Serrano ham, thinly sliced into about 8 slices
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling over the sandwiches
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
TO ROAST THE ASPARAGUS: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
To check the asparagus for tenderness, bite into the end. If it’s stringy and tough, peel the outer layer of the bottom inch or two of each stalk. Place the asparagus in a large bowl, drizzle the olive oil over it, and sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Scatter 16 of the thyme sprigs onto a baking sheet and lay the asparagus stalks over them to cover. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until tender to the touch yet firm in the center.
Grill the bread (see Note.)
Rub one side of each slice of bread with the garlic clove, and place on a baking sheet, garlic side up.
Arrange the asparagus over each slice of bread and place on a baking sheet.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler.
TO POACH THE EGGS: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Turn the heat down to just below a simmer and add the vinegar and salt. Crack an egg into a small bowl to check that the yolk isn’t broken. Slowly stir the water in one direction to create a whirlpool effect. Once the whirlpool has slowed down a little, carefully slide the egg into the water against the side of the pan, following the current of the water as you pour the egg in, so that the white envelops the yolk. Crack another egg into the small bowl and add to the water in the same manner. Poach the eggs for 2 to 2½ minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are runny. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon to a plate to drain. Cupping the eggs in your hand, tip the plate to pour off the excess water.
Place the eggs centered over the asparagus. Poach the other 2 eggs in the same manner.
(If you want to prepare the eggs ahead of time, slip the poached eggs into a bowl of ice water, and just before assembling the sandwiches, return them to the simmering water for 10–20 seconds to warm.)
Drape a slice of Fontina cheese over each egg, and heat the sandwiches under the broiler for a minute or so, just until the cheese is melted.
Remove the sandwiches from the oven, and rumple a slice of prosciutto over each end of the asparagus, allowing the ends to peek out. Drizzle a little olive oil over, sprinkle with pepper, and place a thyme sprig on each sandwich.
2002 Nancy Silverton