Asparagus Sformato and Watercress Salad

Chef Lydia Shire is making a mouth-watering Italian custard dish and pairing it with a refreshing salad.

Ingredients for Asparagus Sformato

  • 2 lbs. jumbo spears of asparagus
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, best available
  • 2 whole leeks
  • 3 cloves peeled fresh garlic chopped , never from a jar
  • ½ cup good white wine
  • 1 Tbsp. Madras Curry
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbsp. good extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups heavy cream, 40% if possible
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small bag of clean baby spinach
  • 6 large eggs or more

Ingredients for Simple Watercress Salad

  • 1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cups micro purple watercress or any other watercress available
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • An additional 12 spears of grilled asparagus for the composed salad (use 2 per plate)
  • Optional: garnish of Nasturtium flowers

Asparagus Sformato - Home & Family

Directions for Sformato

1. Set oven to 300 degrees

2. You will need a good blender or Vitamix for this dish. Also a fine mesh strainer and six 4 oz. aluminum cups.

3. Take your asparagus spears and snap off the tough ends where they break naturally. Soak stalks in a large pot of warm water to loosen dirt. Drain and slice through to small 1 in. pieces. Reserve.

4. Chop your freshly peeled garlic into a small dice. Tear off any dry looking leaves off your 2 leeks. Cut the dark green portions and the stems off leaving the light portions. Split them in half lengthwise. Now, cut the leeks into 1-inch, half-moon shaped pieces and soak all in warm water to cover. Shake or stir to loosen dirt which leeks are famous for harboring. Change water several times till you are sure they are clean. Drain well.

5. In a large saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and leeks and cook until soft and sweet. Do not let them color. Add the sliced asparagus, Madras curry, salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

6. Add ½ cup of wine and let cook down for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and water. Let everything simmer until the asparagus is tender. Taste again. If you have to think about it, your seasoning isn’t there, most likely it needs salt.

7. Now, have your blender or Vitamix ready to go. Place a large handful of baby spinach into your blender container and ladle your asparagus with liquid over the spinach. Fill the blender container ¾’s of the way to the top. Start to blend at a low speed, then increase until the liquid is all one color and completely liquefied. Repeat this in batches. Be sure to add spinach to every batch. This will insure your puree is a great color and has deep flavor. When all of the asparagus mixture has been blended, ladle off any foam you see. Let cool slightly. Warm is ok but not boiling hot. THIS IS THE MOMENT TO MEASURE ACCURATELY how much asparagus liquid you have . The recipe is 1 large egg for every cup of liquid . Any remaining asparagus liquid you have can go into a soup. Just make sure you have a specific number of cups of liquid to go with the correct number of eggs . 1 to 1 .

8. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm puree into the eggs until no traces of egg are showing and the puree in fully incorporated. Add the extra virgin olive oil. Whisk, taste, ask someone’s opinion. It should be flavorful and memorable. At this point you need to stain the entire mixture through a chinois or very fine strainer.

9. Butter the insides of your aluminum cups and if you have pan spray, spray a little in. Fill the cups to almost the top. Set the filled cups inside a roasting pan. Fill the pan with water to half way up the sides of the aluminum cups. Do not cover. Place the sformatos into the 300°F “still” oven, not convection, for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the center of one. It should come out clean.

10. The sformatos can be made the day before , cooled to room temperature then refrigerated. Cover each of them in plastic wrap so as not to absorb refrigerator smells.

11. To reheat, place the sformatos into a large frying pan and fill with warm water half way up the sides of the cups. Shave a little butter and place on top of each to warm through. Put into a 350°F oven for approximately 12 minutes until warm inside . Remove from oven.

[By the way, many sformatos have a roux in them. This does not. It is GLUTEN FREE, though obviously not VEGAN].

Directions for Serving and Plating

1. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the sformato cups , flip out onto your hand but plate them with their brown top showing .

2. Serve with a two spears of grilled asparagus (recipe below), a slice of bacon (recipe below) and watercress salad (Recipe below).

3. Finish with a few drops of good balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Directions for Salad

1. Season the watercress with a touch of salt and pepper. Add the sliced red onion to taste, toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and place next to the sformato . If you find Nasturtium flowers at your market , place one blossom next to the sformato .
2. Peel 12 additional jumbo spears of asparagus , soak in cold water. Grill , rubbed in a little olive oil or place in frying pan with ¼ cup water and cook briskly until just done .. a bit al dente . Season with Salt and Pepper. Put 2 on each salad plate

Bacon to be Served on Plate

6 slices thick-cut, double smoked bacon

Directions for Bacon

1. Cook the bacon over a grill or in a large frying pan, place the 6 thick slices of bacon and cook on high heat until a bit black around the edges.
2. Remove at once. The bacon is only to be cooked on one side .

Final Plating

· Balsamic Vinegar (the best you can afford)
· Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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