Asparagus

A 5-Ingredient Dinner to Kick Off Asparagus Season Right

An ode to spring’s favorite vegetable.

April  2, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week is an ode to asparagus.


Asparagus is the chameleon of springtime. It’s happy to be blitzed into a creamy pesto. Or shaved and tossed with everything green. Or even turned into a savory pancake.

But to me, the best thing to do with asparagus is not much at all.

Though boiling may not be cool, it is the surest way to express a vegetable’s true vegetable-iness (second only to leaving it raw). With its tall, lanky build, asparagus needs just a few minutes in hot water to go from crunchy to crisp-tender—from green to greenest.

Asparagus and its backup dancers. Photo by Ty Mecham

Add a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of flaky salt and you have the perfect side. But, at least once in its short season, asparagus deserves to be more than a side. It deserves to be dinner, period.

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Top Comment:
“While the recipe looks great, I have a severe allergy to hot peppers so would have to omit the Calabrian pepper paste. Is there a spice of some kind that does not contain capsaicin that would ramp up the flavor? I run into this all the time as it seems so many recipes contain heat that did not in the past. ”
— Votingwithmydollar
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All we need is a supporting cast, to round out the meal without outshining our star. That’s where these four ingredients come in: anchovies, bread crumbs, eggs, and Calabrian chiles.

If you’re raising your eyebrows at anchovies, you won’t even know they’re there. At the same time, you'd miss them if they weren't. Minced-beyond-recognition anchovies make many things better, but especially olive oil–fried bread crumbs. Thanks to their magic ingredient, the crumbs have a salty, umami complexity that evokes the thrifty Italian trick of using bread crumbs instead of grated cheese.

The eggs are soft-boiled, with just-set whites and jammy yolks. You could slice them in half and neatly place them atop the asparagus. But I much prefer to add the eggs whole, then smash them with my fork into haphazard pieces (a technique I learned from Smitten Kitchen). Instead of staying in one place, the yolk "sauce" gets everywhere, which is exactly where we want it. A little Calabrian chile paste, randomly dabbed onto the egg bits and bobs, goes a long way. It’s spicy, sure, but it also adds brightness and acidity and perks up the entire dish.

This could serve up to four, if you have other components at the table—maybe soup or salad or both. But my husband and I ate up the two pounds of asparagus with forks and steak knives, leaving only a handful of crumbs behind. We saved them in a container and finished them the next day. On more asparagus, of course.


Bonus Big Little Recipe

If you’re a Big Little fan, maybe you’re wondering: Where’s this week’s video? We’re taking a quick hiatus—yep, just like a TV show—to cook up the next season of episodes, premiering May 28. They’re gonna be bigger (and littler) and better than ever. Stay tuned!

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  • Natalie Bullion
    Natalie Bullion
  • Votingwithmydollar
    Votingwithmydollar
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

5 Comments

Natalie B. April 9, 2019
This is SPECTACULAR!!!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. April 9, 2019
Thanks, Natalie!
 
Votingwithmydollar April 2, 2019
While the recipe looks great, I have a severe allergy to hot peppers so would have to omit the Calabrian pepper paste. Is there a spice of some kind that does not contain capsaicin that would ramp up the flavor? I run into this all the time as it seems so many recipes contain heat that did not in the past.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. April 2, 2019
Hi! Feel free to omit the Calabrian chiles—it's still a great dish without them. If you want a little added acidity, you could do a squeeze of lemon on top. Another thought: mixing some minced garlic into the anchovy bread crumbs.
 
Marya K. April 9, 2019
A scattering of pickled red onion would give a hit of acid and flavor that would go well with the dish and wouldn’t set off a pepper allergy.