Asparagus season is upon us…

Am always excited about first of the season asparagus.  But I think I may have gone a bit overboard in the decadent department.

I wrapped the asparagus stalks in speck and roasted them in the oven.   Speck…have you tried it?  It’s like prosciutto, but dare I say, better.  It’s a lightly smoked, cured ham from Northern Italy. When it comes to food, I love just about anything smoked, so speck is unquestionably a winner in my book.  Speck has that ideal, subtle hint of smokiness and is lovely paired with fresh asparagus.

If that weren’t enough, proceeded to top the roasted speck-wrapped asparagus with a poached egg.  You simply can’t go wrong with a poached egg.  Piercing the yolk and allowing that oozy, vibrant yellow-orange goodness to mix and mingle with the other flavors on the plate, all I can say is — yum!

Lastly, topped the dish with hollandaise sauce, which is essentially an emulsion of egg yolks and butter — an obscene amount of butter (embrace it).

Butter aside, it’s a great skill to be able to whip up a hollandaise [one of the five French mother sauces].  It takes a bit of practice to achieve the proper consistency.  It can break on you and cause massive amounts of frustration.  If this happens, don’t fret, you may be able to salvage it (as I’ve recently learned; see notes below).  But when done well, hollandaise is light and airy and buttery.

So, get out your whisk, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to put some muscle into it.  Whisk, whisk, whisk away…

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Hollandaise — (clarified) butter, water, lemon juice, egg yolks and salt (and a pinch of cayenne if you like)…whisked until it forms a creamy emulsion.  Clarified butter, which has the milk solids removed, makes for the thickest, smoothest sauce.

Hollandaise should have a light and creamy consistency, thin enough to drizzle.

Top the asparagus with a poached egg and hollandaise, if you so desire…

Simply snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, wrap with speck, and place under the broiler — a few minutes per side…

Asparagus Wrapped in Speck Topped with a Poached Egg and Hollandaise

1 bunch (8-10) fat stalks of asparagus
4 to 8 thin slices of speck, cut in half lengthwise
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 poached egg, chicken or duck
Hollandaise (recipe below)

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus.  Wrap each asparagus stalk with a (half) slice of speck.

Place the asparagus on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat, season with salt (go easy, speck can be salty) and black pepper.  Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 3 minutes, flip the asparagus stalks, and broil for another 3 minutes until the speck is a bit browned and crispy.

Arrange the asparagus on a plate.  Top with a poached egg.  Spoon the hollandaise on top.


6 ounces unsalted *clarified butter
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
pinch of cayenne

Heat an inch or two of water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and water in a heatproof bowl (glass or stainless steel).  When the water comes to a simmer, place the bowl over the saucepan.  Whisk the yolks, 3-4 minutes, until the yolks begin to thicken.

Remove the bowl from the heat.  Form a ring with a dishcloth and place the bowl in the ring (to help stabilize the bowl as you whisk).  Begin adding the clarified butter slowly, a few drops at a time at first, while whisking constantly (an immersion blender works well or you can whisk by hand).  If you add the butter too quickly, the emulsion might break.

Continue to whisk in the butter.  As the sauce thickens, you can gradually increase the rate at which you add the butter.  After you’ve added all the butter, taste and season with salt and cayenne.  Add more lemon juice to taste.

*To clarify the butter: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.  Pour into a glass jar/measuring cup.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Spoon the foam off the top.  Slowly pour the clarified butter into a container, leaving the milky solids at the bottom.

**How to salvage a broken hollandaise: Whisk another yolk with a tablespoons of water, then very slowly whisk the broken sauce into the yolk.

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