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Impress your Christmas dinner guests with this Quebecois comfort food recipe from chef J-C Piorier's Where the River Narrows.
By Jean-Christophe Poirier with Joie Alvaro Kent
White asparagus would be my preference here; the stalks are more delicate and sweet, with just a hint of bitterness, while green asparagus is more on the grassy side. But white asparagus are often unavailable and more pricey. I like asparagus prepared simply with a sauce, in this case a beurre blanc, but it’s also exquisite with a Sauce Hollandaise or mousseline.
Yield: 4 portions
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Preheat your oven to 425°F, with the rack in the centre position. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into an 8-by-4-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Using a paring knife, trim the rectangle and cut it into 4 smaller rectangles, each measuring 2 by 4 inches.
Place the pastry rectangles on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg wash, making sure none of it trickles down the sides or it will prevent the pastry from rising properly. With a paring knife, score a few lines to make a diamond pattern.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 230°F.
Prepare the asparagus: In a large saucepan wide enough to fit the asparagus, bring the water, salt, sugar and lemon peel to a boil on high heat. Add the asparagus and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the asparagus is tender but still firm in the centre (3 to 4 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking.
Increase the heat to high and reduce the cooking liquid to ¼ cup. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Prepare the butter sauce: In a small saucepan on medium-high heat, heat the oil. Sauté the shallots until soft and translucent but without colouration. Add the wine, vinegar, thyme and bay leaf, and reduce until 3 tablespoons of the liquid remains. Strain through a tamis or colander, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract and save all the liquid.
Pour the liquid back into the saucepan. Return to a boil on medium-high heat. Move the saucepan off the heat and gradually add the cubes of cold butter while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until all the butter is incorporated, placing the saucepan briefly on the heat and taking it back off again every once in a while to help the butter melt. Whisk in the cream. Do not boil the sauce at this stage or it will split. The sauce should be silky, smooth and glossy.
Turn off the heat and season the sauce with salt and lemon juice. When you’re ready to plate, stir in the chervil at the last moment.
Just before serving, warm your serving plates in a 230°F oven.
Return the asparagus to the pan with the reduced cooking liquid and place on medium heat. Add the 2 tablespoons butter and glaze the asparagus until heated through. If the liquid in the pan begins to split because it’s over-reduced, add 1 tablespoon water to maintain the emulsion.
Scoop the chervil butter sauce onto the plate. Arrange a few stalks of green asparagus atop the sauce. Garnish with the remaining chervil leaves all around the asparagus. Top with the puff pastry and serve immediately.
READ NEXT: More Christmassy Quebecois Comfort Food Recipes from Chef J-C Piorier
Excerpted from Where the River Narrows by Jean-Christophe Poirier with Joie Alvaro Kent. Copyright © 2022 Jean-Christophe Poirier. Photography © 2022 Brit Gill. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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