The first course of chef Peter Smith's budget challenge dinner for 4 calls for vinegar, oil, salt and pepper from the pantry. He found a small basket of loose crystallized ginger in the produce department of his local Safeway, enabling him to buy the small amount needed here.
Cook the onion first; that way, the flavored oil, once strained, can be used to make the vinaigrette and the main course (see related recipe for Pan Stew of Bottom Round Steak With Rosti Potato in Recipe Finder).
The chef also advises tasting the outside of the asparagus before prepping the vegetable. If it's tender enough, no peeling is required.
This dish could also be complemented (with a larger budget, of course) with blanched new potatoes, bacon, Parmesan cheese or a combination of all three.
- 3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, such as canola oil, plus more as needed
- 1/4 medium yellow onion, cut into very thin strips (julienne)
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound (not too thick or too thin) asparagus (peeled or unpeeled; see headnote) and tough ends trimmed; reserve peelings and trimmings
- .8 ounce (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) crystallized ginger, cut into julienne
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- Water (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place a heatproof colander over a large metal mixing bowl in the sink (for straining hot oil). Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Pour the oil in a medium saucepan (it should cover the bottom by 1/2 inch; if not, add more as needed). Add the onion and place the saucepan over high heat. Fry for 6 to 7 minutes, until the onion becomes golden brown (stir only after it starts to gain color); watch closely to avoid burning. Strain the onion in the colander, reserving 2 tablespoons of oil for the vinaigrette and the rest for another use (see related recipe in Recipe Finder). Spread the onion on the baking sheet to cool, and season lightly with salt. Keep the fried onion at room temperature until ready to use.
Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Have a clean dish towel laid on the counter nearby.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 2 minutes, just until tender; use tongs to transfer the spears to the ice-water bath to stop their cooking. Transfer them to the dish towel, wrap them up and refrigerate until ready to use.
Meanwhile, combine the ginger and vinegar in a small saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. The consistency should be slightly syrupy. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
When it has cooled, whisk in 2 tablespoons of the strained, onion-flavored oil in a slow, steady stream; if during this process the vinaigrette becomes too thick, add a small amount of water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange the asparagus on individual plates. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top, and then sprinkle with the fried onions and salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.
From chef Peter Smith of PS 7's restaurant in Washington.
Tested by Kathy Orton and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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