Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Fried Eggs and Anchovy Bread Crumbs
David Chang is the last chef on earth you'd think would inspire a vegetarian dish, but so it was with this asparagus dish and me. Famous for being anti-vegetarian, at his restaurant Momofuku he makes sure not to go out of his way to cater to them. Of the twenty or so items on the menu, those herbivorously inclined can order exactly two: the house-made oshinko pickle and the shiitake mushroom steamed buns. Everything else has pork or chicken broth or bacon tucked away inside, even something as seemingly vegetarian-friendly as a dish of pan-roasted asparagus with miso.
I can't remember what the offending meat product is, maybe a little lard in the pan, maybe a soupcon of broth, but whatever it is, I can't really detect it. Instead the dish tastes deeply of green, grassy asparagus, caramelized, softened, and singed from the skillet.
Now, I've made a lot of asparagus over the years. I've steamed it, roasted it, grilled it, sautéed it, butter-braised it. But not until I tried Chang's version did I even think to pan fry it.
Once I did, though, I was a convert. All those other methods have their charms, but to me, panfrying combines the best attributes of them all. Like grilled and roasted asparagus, it blisters and chars, giving the stalks a nutty brown flavor. And it's as fast and easy as steaming.
Unlike Chang, I don't add any meat to the pan, just oil (either olive or peanut), asparagus, and a little salt and pepper. The trick is to cover the pan but hover nearby, shaking it every few minutes so the stalks sear on all sides without burning. The cover traps the hot steam, so you can steam and sear at the same time. Come to think of it, steam-sear is a much more accurate description than pan-roast, but not nearly as appetizing.
On its own, pan-roasted asparagus makes a fine and simple side dish to almost any meal in need of a little green. But in the first few weeks of spring when purple-tinged bunches of the stalks are just appearing at farmers' markets, I want them in the center of the plate, not on the sidelines. That's when I made this dish, pan-roasting the asparagus, then topping it with fried eggs and garlicky bread crumbs.
I got the idea from Franny's, where they serve an asparagus salad composed of the wood oven-roasted stalks covered in vinaigrette, bread crumbs, and minced hard-cooked eggs. Since I don't have a wood-burning oven, I pan-roast the stalks, then use the same pan to crisp the bread crumbs with garlic and anchovies for a savory edge, and also to fry a couple of eggs. Hard-cooked are nice, but lack the runny yolk mixing with the bread crumbs and dripping onto the asparagus. Altogether, I think this dish is as close to vegetable heaven as you can get. Without bacon, that is.
Serves2 as an appetizer or side dish
Cooking Time10 min
Cooking Time - Text10
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Recipe Courseappetizer, side dish
Dietary Considerationappetizer, side dish
Taste and Texturecrisp, salty
Type of Dishvegetable
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unseasoned, preferably homemade bread crumbs
- 1 anchovy fillet, minced
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- Kosher salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and anchovy and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread crumbs are browned and toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and a large pinch of salt and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add the lemon zest, then transfer the mixture to a small bowl.
Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return it to the heat. Add another tablespoon of the oil and then add the asparagus and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring and shaking the pan occasionally, until the asparagus is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture.
Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and return it to the heat. Crack in the eggs and fry until just set but still runny, 2 to 3 minutes. Slide the eggs on top of the asparagus and serve.
2010 Melissa Clark, Inc.