It may come as something of a surprise, but here in Paris—land of the coffee-and-croissant breakfast—weekend brunch has become downright trendy of late.
And what better season to enjoy a late breakfast on a sunny Parisian terrace than spring? The air is still brisk enough to enjoy a hot beverage with your meal, and the seasonal produce lends itself very well to brunch preparations. Asparagus, for example, is a delight with eggs—think about how often it is served with egg-based sauces, such as hollandaise or mayonnaise.
This warm salad bridges the gap between breakfast and lunch perfectly. Bite-size pieces of asparagus are briefly steamed, then dressed with a vinaigrette featuring lemon and fines herbes. A classic French herb blend, fines herbes includes parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. I’ve omitted the chervil because it can be hard to find, and its delicate flavor is somewhere between parsley and tarragon anyway.
The poached egg on top makes this salad into a heartier dish, and when the yolk breaks, it enriches the sauce beautifully. Serve with slices of cured ham or smoked salmon for an elegant weekend brunch.
Warm Herbed Asparagus Salad with Poached Eggs
Serves two as a main course, four as part of a larger spread.
4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, equal parts parsley, chives and tarragon
juice of 1 large lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4–5 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1½ pounds asparagus (about 750 grams)
1–2 eggs per person
1. First, make the vinaigrette. Combine the chopped herbs, lemon juice, shallot and mustard in a large bowl. Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly, until the dressing emulsifies—it will thicken slightly and look translucent. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, trim the tough bottoms off the asparagus and slice about a half inch (1 cm) thick on the bias. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket over the water and steam until tender, 3–4 minutes. Toss the hot asparagus with the dressing, taste and adjust the seasoning.
3. Poach the eggs: in a pan of barely simmering water (you can use the same one you steamed the asparagus in), gently place the eggs one at a time. It helps if you crack them into a ladle or large spoon first, then lower them into the water. Cook until the eggs are softly set, 3–5 minutes depending on your preference.
4. While the eggs are poaching, divide the salad among the serving plates. Lift the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and place them atop the salads. Serve immediately.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.
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