From Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way (with a few edits). Perhaps not well known to younger cooks, but everything in this book turns out great!
We try to eat local and seasonal, so when asparagus hits the market, this is the first thing we make and eat until we tire of it.
Prep ingredients. Note that croutons are often best with day old bread. Consider cubing the bread a bit ahead of time and leaving them out to dry a bit before the "a la minute" cooking. This is made just before serving. It is still edible later, but the asparagus starts to shrivel and it is not as "pretty". Serves 4 as a side or main. This kind of dish also goes well with a nice runny, over-easy egg.
The "wonderfulness" of this quick dish is the texture. You want to be sure that the croutons are crispy. Stick to recommended ingredient portions to avoid over-crowding in the pan.
1 lb (large, thick?) firm asparagus, cut into 2-3" pieces - see Tips
1/4 cup good, extra virgin olive oil
1 cup 1/4" slices of dried sausage (about 4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups 1/4" bread cubes (croutons)
1/4 cup whole roasted almonds with skins
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pépin pretty much puts all of this in the pan at the same time, but that's not what I advise.
At serving time, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat until very hot.
The best assurance of crispy croutons is to do them first. Add the bread cubes to the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, until they are nice and crispy. Then add the sausage, stirring for a few minutes - then the asparagus. Sauté, covered, for 4-5 minutes, tossing and stirring the mixture a few times so it browns and cooks all over. Add the almonds, salt and pepper, toss again and serve on warmed plates.
Notes and Tips...
- Asparagus - remove the tough ends, and peel the bottom half of stalks with a vegetable peeler if they are not tender. Chefs claim that medium thick stalks are much better than those that are too thin or too think - think "Goldilocks".
- Oil - use the best, tastiest olive oil you have
- Sausage - he suggests chorizo, but we like Hungarian sausage called csabai or farmer-style
- Croutons - preferably from a baguette, sour dough or country loaf; do not use ready made croutons
- Almonds - I prefer to use roasted (unsalted)
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