I've decided to make a classic dish from Emilia-Romagna - Asparagi alla Parmigiana - usually served as a side, it's made with just cooked asparagus spears that are sautéed in nut brown butter and then placed under a grill with a cook sprinkling of Parmesan.
To make it even more special, I'm replicating a version of this dish that I've enjoyed in Bologna - it's been turned into a starter with the addition of an egg and shaved truffle.
10 fresh asparagus spears
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 eggs, optional
finely sliced truffle, optional
Prepare the asparagus:
Remove the woody ends from the spears and then steam or boil until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large knob of butter in a pan over a low heat and once the butter has melted and is started to brown, add the asparagus, making sure they fit in one layer. Increase the heat slightly and roll the spears around the butter, ensuring they brown a little.
Take an oven tray and line with baking paper - arrange the spears in one layer and drizzle over with the butter they have been cooked in. Next, generously sprinkle over with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
There's one thing I've learnt while I've been in Italy is that there are various types of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Besides the various aged parmesans, you'll find that you can also buy Parmesan made from Vacca Rossa (Red Cow made from Reggiana breed of cows) and Vacca Bianca (White Cow made from Modenese White Cow).
The Parmigiano I've used in this dish is a 36 month Vacca Bianca which I found at the Earth Market in Bologna.
Place the tray of parmesan topped spears under a grill and cook until the cheese has melted and formed a crust.
If you were serving this dish as a side, you'll then place these spears onto a serving plate and that would be it.
To make Asparagi alla Parmigiana con Tartufo e Uovo:
While the asparagus is under the grill - cook the eggs, sunny side up, until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. If you want it to look more nicer, then use egg rings so the eggs will cook to a perfect circle.
Arrange 5 spears on a plate, drizzle over with a little of the butter from the tray - place the cooked egg over the spears and then shave truffle over the top - as much or as little as you like, white or black, depending on the season.
Truffle and egg is a match made in heaven but with the addition of asparagus and parmesan it reaches a whole new level.
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