This recipe was inspired by a photo that was on the back of another recipe I clipped from a magazine. It was so pretty, and so inviting - just beautiful spears of asparagus floating in a clear aspic gel, but no recipe! So I made this one up using a Thai inspired vegetable stock with lemongrass and chiles. The lemongrass and the asparagus together are just fabulous. I serve it with a goat cheese mousse and lemon chive vinaigrette. I wanted to add chive flowers to it and couldn't find any, so I added edible flowers (roses and snapdragons) from my garden instead. —Burnt Offerings
6 - 8
stalks lemongrass, bruised with the back of a heavy knife
inch pice of galangal root, sliced thin - you can use ginger root if you don't have galangal
onion, quartered, skin left on
small head of garlic, cut in half, unpeeled
kaffir lime leaves (fresh bay leaf can be substituted)
Add all of the Lemongrass aspic ingredients except the gelatin into a large stockpot. This recipe only needs about 4 cups of this stock - the rest is a fabulous Asian vegetable stock you can freeze, use for soups, etc.
Bring to a simmer, skim off any foam that appears, cover and let simmer gently for 2.5 hours
Remove stock from heat, and ladle it into a large colander lined with a double layer of fine cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, over another pot to strain out any solids. Taste carefully and correct for salt. Don't be shy with the salt - it's the only seasoning the asparagus has.
Discard solids and refrigerate the stock until ready to use.
Lightly oil a nonreactive loaf pan, and cut the chives to exactly the length of the loaf pan
Clean, peel and trim all of the asparagus. Select spears that are as long as the loaf pan. Save shorter spears for another purpose and cut longer spears to fit. Depending on the width of your stalks, you'll need 4-6 spears per layer. You can also cut the spears to fit the width of the loaf pan and make two stacks. It's difficult to cut the spears once the aspic sets without ruining the aspic, so just serve them in whole slices.
Cook the asparagus spears in a couple cups of the lemongrass stock until crisp tender (about 3 minutes) and plunge into ice water to cool them and stop the cooking process. Dry thoroughly.
Meanwhile reheat 3 cups of the lemongrass stock in a small saucepan or the microwave to a simmer. Remover from heat and sprinkle in the gelatin and mix well to dissolve.
Sprinkle the bottom of the oiled loaf pan with the flowers if you are using them, then carefully add a layer of chive stems in a single layer.
Add a layer of white asparagus spears, and then green asparagus spears, alternating the stems and tips. If you have enough chive stems for another layer of chives - add them in about halfway up the pan. The spears will be hard to cut once the aspic has set, so you can also cut the spears to fit across the short side of the pan and make two sets of layers.
Continue filling the loaf pan with asparagus spears in this manner until it is about 1/2 inch from the top, or you run out of spears.
Carefully pour in the stock and gelatin mixture until all the spears are submerged completely and covered by about 1/4 inch of the stock. Chill the aspic uncovered in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
To unmold, run a knife around the edge of the loaf pan, and then set the pan in a large pan of hot water for about 30 seconds. Place the serving plate over the aspic, and turn the pan upside down. It will unmold gently.
Slice lengthwise so you get whole spears and serve with goat cheese mousse, slices of prosciutto and some nice french bread. A lemon chive vinaigrette is also nice with it.