Chef Andre Donnet became part of the tapestry of my life well over a decade ago. This recipe from him is dated 2007. I've called it Andre's Asparagus instead of his longer, descriptive title - Asparagus Mimosa with Red Pepper Emulsion and Goat Cheese. I (and often Mr. KB) attended many of his cooking classes in various venues. He also helped me get a gig as a chef assistant in classes run by many amazing chefs.
Andre had many chapters in his cooking life. (I attended two of his retirements!) From the French part of Switzerland, he was one of those classic chefs who began doing kitchen drudge work, settling in for a time as an accomplished saucier, and eventually as executive chef in various restaurants (on various continents) - his last being L'Escargot in Hamilton. I stumbled across this 2015 tribute to him from one of his sous chefs - Deborah Reid - still an active food writer and blogger.
Andre, too, is a writer and a story-teller. He once mentioned that he'd always imagined becoming a writer - but the cooking life intervened. Nonetheless, his recipe compilations were always prefaced with engaging and informative essays on food.
With no exception, Andre was the most accomplished chef I ever encountered. I often begged him to compile a cookbook. The closest thing I have to that are the recipes he shared in cooking classes - many of which are part of the KB repertoire. I'm astonished that after two years of blogging this is the first I have posted.
This "salad" is served room temperature / "cold" with some steps that can be done ahead of time and others that are done à la minute. It's a bit more "fancy pants" than simply grilling or boiling that wonderful fresh asparagus appearing in markets now. Don't be intimidated. With some prep it all comes together nicely!
Merci Andre and to all of you, Bon Appétit.
- prepare the 3 hard-boiled eggs (could be done day before, but then must be brought to room temperature on serving day)
- consider making the red pepper emulsion the day before
- prep the asparagus (see details below)
- bring the goat cheese to room temp
- the cheese / cream mixture can be refrigerated briefly until you are ready for plating
3 red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
3 TB rice vinegar
2 TB honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
Red Pepper Emulsion. If fresh, the red peppers must be roasted, peeled and seeded. Buying these ready to use in a jar gets a thumbs up from Andre. Use red onions if you do not have shallots - but, the shallots will taste better...
The original recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, but that's a LOT of calories. I have made this often and find I get a satisfactory emulsion using just 1/4 cup.
Place all ingredients - except the oil - into a blender and process to a smooth texture. Then slowly pour in the oil. If the mixture becomes too thick you can add a wee bit of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Thius can be made the day before - but bring it to room temperature before serving.
3 eggs, hard-boiled - See my tips on making (and peeling) perfect hard-boiled eggs. Chop the eggs as you woudl for an egg salad sandwich - this will be sprinked on the cooked asparagus.
250 g goat cheese log
3/4 cup 35% cream
salt and white pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Soften the goat cheese to room temperature and mush it about with a spatula until smooth.
Whip the cream into soft peaks and then, bit by bit, fold this into the cheese.
Season with salt and white pepper and some chopped fresh thyme leaves. Set aside until plating, but refrierate if plating time will not be soon.
2 pounds asparagus
The "Goldilocks" rule applies - not too fat, not too skinny - try to get a bunch of mid-sized asparagus. Andre was not a fan of the fad of "bending the asparagus and letting it break". He cut about 1/2" - 1" off the cut end and used a vegetable peeler to take off any tough outer skin on the bottom third / half of the stalk. [Example]
Then cut each stalk in the middle, with a diagonal cut.
All set? The (4 minute) cooking of the asparagus is done à la minute, followed by immediate plating and serving. Have all of the above done and your plates ready for plating. AND get a bowl of ice water ready for the asparagus.
Fill a wide pan with about 3 inches of water. Bring the well-salted water to a boil. Place the asparagus in the boiling water. Remove the asparagus once the water returns to a boil, about 4 minutes. It should be sort of al dente. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water using tongs and gently place it in the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the colour.
After a few minutes of cool-down, briefly place the asparagus on paper towels to absorb excess water, and then gently toss the asparagus with 2-4 TB of grapeseed oil, and salt and pepper.
Now you're ready to plate. Place a mound of asparagus in the centre of the plate. Sprinkle it with chopped eggs. Circle it all with some of the emulsion. Top with a goat cheese quenelle, and sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme. A thing of beauty and a taste sensation!
Notes and Tips...
- Mimosa - for many, brings to mind the brunch staple of Prosecco and orange juice. I seem to recall Andre explaining that he used this word in the recipe name to represent the burst of yellow from the hard-boiled eggs.
- Grapeseed oil - substitute canola or sunflower if necessary.
- Rice Vinegar - I have used seasoned and unseasoned. Only difference is that if using seasoned, you may not have to add too much salt / pepper afterwards.
- For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.