Tag Archives: aioli

ASPARAGUS FRIES AND AIOLI

A few evenings ago, we went with our food-enthusiast friends to a relatively new Santa Fe restaurant, Arroyo Vino. We were excited about the visit, which was a ways out of town, because we had previously been big fans of the Executive Chef, Mark Connell, who had wowed us at a downtown place that is now history. The restaurant is only open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday so reservations can be dicey. But the added feature is that it is attached to a very complete wine shop that is open throughout the week, and with lots of good choices for fair prices. You can even buy a bottle for your dinner if nothing on the menu pleases your palate.

The menu changes frequently and tends to favor the current enthusiasm for the farm-to-market movement. Specials are posted on a blackboard, and they are worth considering in view of the restaurant philosophy.

Asparagus is in season, so you can get it prepared in one of several ways. I didn’t see asparagus ice cream, but the asparagus soup was a keeper, and to my taste the asparagus fries turned out to be a highlight of the evening

The dish was served in a beaker filled with plump asparagus spears lightly dusted with panko and fried just until the panko toasted but not enough to rob the asparagus of its green and crispness. It was lighter than tempura – if you want tempura you do batter – but it begged to be dipped in the accompanying Hollandaise.

When I got home I decided to emulate this very special dish. My effort didn’t come close to the real thing, but it was good enough that there was no asparagus left at the end of dinner. This recipe is also ingredient-efficient because I used egg whites to give the panko something to stick to and then the yolks to make a dipping aioli instead of Hollandaise. Making the aioli also gave me a chance to use one of my new gadgets.

Over the years, I have gone through countless garlic presses. Of course, the pros among you will say, “Don’t put it through a press, just mince it, or make a paste with the flat of a knife, or use a mortar and pestle.” All of those skills have escaped me, but garlic presses have also been a big disappointment. They break; the holes are hard to clean out; the press part doesn’t meet the plate of holes; the garlic doesn’t get extruded; etc. So my wife gave me a JosephJoseph garlic rocker, made by the British firm owned by the twin brothers Joseph and designed by Goodwin Hartshorn. It is a thing of beauty, made of lightly brushed metal with two wings and an indentation of a honeycomb of sharp-edged hexagonal holes. You place the rocker on some garlic, and rocking the wings back and forth, you force the garlic through the holes into the indentation. The garlic may not be as fine as you would like, so just press it through a second time. It works, it’s fun, and it’s easy to clean/dishwasher safe.

Our home meal was finished with corn-on-the-cob and twice-baked potato.

RECIPE

Asparagus Fries

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, preferably larger stalks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • peanut oil for deep-frying

Method

  1. Wash the asparagus and trim the woody stems so that the stalks are about the same length
  2. Whip the egg whites so that they are frothy and evenly mixed. Whip in the water and transfer to a shallow plate or pan.
  3. In another plate or pan, combine the panko, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Working a few stalks at a time, coat them with egg white and then coat them with the panko mixture. Set on a baking rack for a few minutes to dry until all of the stalks are coated.
  5. Heat a heavy pot with about 3 inches of peanut oil to 350° F. Adjust the heat to maintain temperature because the asparagus will cool of the oil rapidly, and the asparagus will become greasy if the temperature is too low.
  6. Working in batches, transfer the asparagus stalks to the hot oil. Fry for no more than a minute until the panko is lightly browned. Transfer to folded paper towels to drain, and keep warm until all of the asparagus is fried.
  7. Serve immediately with freshly made aioli. You can use the 2 leftover egg yolks for that.

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SMOKED NEW POTATOES AND CARAMELIZED GARLIC AIOLI

Here’s another idea I lifted from Bar Tartine. Their smoked potatoes with black garlic are unique and delicious. I couldn’t possibly replicate them at home. First, because I don’t have black garlic, and second, I don’t have a clue as to how they smoke their potatoes. As to the black garlic, you can order it from Blackgarlic.com in Hollister, CA, near the garlic capital of the world – Gilroy.

Still, an effort was worth a try, especially if I dragged out my Camerons Stovetop Smoker. The smoker is one of the niftiest things in my batterie de cuisine even though I don’t use it that much. With it, I can hot smoke fish, poultry, meat, and anything else you can fit into it without filling the house with smoke. The smoker is available from the manufacturer, Amazon, kitchen stores, and several big-box retailers for under $60.

Camerons also sells wood chips specially sized for the smoker. The wood chips that you find in the barbecuing section of the grocery store are too big. But Camerons gives you a choice of apple, alder, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, pecan, and even corn cob. I used alder, and I think it was a good choice.

As a substitute for the black garlic, I smoked fresh garlic with the potatoes in the hope that it would caramelize and then used for an aïoli. That turned out to be reasonably successful.

RECIPES

Smoked New Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup special smoker wood chips
  • 6-8 small new red potatoes for each diner, well-scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • coarse Kosher salt

Method

  1. Prepare the smoker by placing the wood chips in the center of the bottom of the smoker. Line the tray with aluminum foil, and arrange it and the rack in the smoker.
  2. Arrange the potatoes on the rack with the garlic in a small aluminum foil nest in the center (see below)
  3. With a brush, lightly baste each of the potatoes on all sides and sprinkle generously with the salt.
  4. Slide the cover onto the smoker, leaving a 3 inch opening. Place over medium heat on the stove top. When smoke begins to come out of the opening, close to form a tight seal. You will be able to smell the smoke, and you may see a faint wisp, but there should be no smoke coming out of the sealed smoker.
  5. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove the smoker from the heat, and open the top.
  6. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl

Caramelized Garlic Aïoli

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and stems removed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil into a small “nest” large enough to hold the garlic. Set the nest in the center of the potatoes on the smoker rack.
  2. Smoke according to directions above.
  3. When the potatoes are smoked, transfer the garlic to a small bowl and mash with a fork or pass through a garlic press.
  4. Stir in the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
  5. Serve as a dip with the potatoes.

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ASPARAGUS: LET IT STEW IN ITS OWN JUICE

Another part of our recent meal provided from our trip to the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Even though these days asparagus is available the year around, local, really fresh asparagus is still a harbinger to the spring in northern climes. It is then that it is at its best. There are lots of great ways to cook asparagus – steamed, boiled, baked, and grilled. This method taught to me by Sarah produces the greenest, freshest-tasting asparagus I’ve ever had.

Fresh asparagus spears

We bought three bundles of the thickest stalks we could find in the asparagus stall at the market.

Juicing the asparagus stems

When we were ready for dinner, Sarah cut the thick ends of the stalks where the tender flesh begins. You probably already do the same. I usually throw away those woody ends, but Sarah dropped them into her electric juicer and got the greenest asparagus juice I’ve ever seen. Actually, I’d never seen asparagus juice before.

Peeling the asparagus spears

Next, using a very sharp paring knife, Sarah made the very thinnest peelings of the skins of the asparagus spears.

Peeled asparagus spears ready to cook

Then she put the juice, seasoned with just a little salt and pepper, in a pan large enough to allow the spears to lie flat. She brought the juice to a boil, dropped in the spears, and cooked them for just a few minutes until the asparagus was tender. The finished spears were a bright green color and fragrant.

Asparagus spears cooking in asparagus juice

Sarah served the asparagus with just sections of lemon to squeeze over it, but you can use whatever is your favorite asparagus sauce – hollandaise, aioli, or home-made mayonnaise.

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