Asparagus in Crisp Ham with Lemony Deviled Eggs
This classic combination of asparagus, hard-cooked eggs, and lemon is a tribute to asparagus mimosa. The components can also stand alone, served separately. Country ham is my first choice for this recipe, but it can be difficult to buy country ham sliced into paper-thin sheets, so I often turn to prosciutto, speck, or Serrano ham because they are similar in texture. Large asparagus spears are easiest to wrap, but if you have very slender spears, just wrap up two together.
Makes 4 servings
24 thick asparagus spears (about 1 pound)
12 paper-thin slices of country ham, prosciutto, speck, or Serrano ham
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemony Deviled Eggs (recipe follows)
Zest of 1 lemon cut into very thin strips
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
2. Snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the ham slices in half crosswise. Wrap a slice of ham around the center of each spear, like a wide belt. Arrange the wrapped spears in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush with the oil.
3. Roast until the ham is crispy and the asparagus is barely tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Divide the asparagus and eggs among 4 serving plates or arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Serve warm.
Variation: You can serve the asparagus with eggs fried in butter or poached eggs topped with butter. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice over the finished dish, particularly if the yolks are soft. When the lemon mixes with the yolks and butter, it tastes like hollandaise.
Lemony Deviled Eggs
As a southerner, I consider good deviled eggs to be essential. There are many deviled egg recipes, but this is my favorite of all. (Other than my daughter’s, but she’s not sharing her secret recipe. When she was only five, deviled eggs were the first food she made all by herself. I love that kid.) Light, airy sieved yolks make the filling incomparably smooth and creamy. Don’t skip that step.
It’s a southern tradition to dust deviled eggs with paprika. Alas, some cooks have used the same tin of paprika since the war. Fresh paprika has bright flavor and pungent aroma. If yours has neither, buy new.
Makes 12 halves
6 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade (page 317)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
Paprika, for dusting
1. Place the eggs in a single layer in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 16 minutes.
2. Immediately pour off the hot water, fill the pan with cold water, add a handful of ice cubes, and set aside to cool. Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and use a spatula or your fingertips to rub them through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise and butter; mix gently until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and mustard. Season with salt and white pepper. The flavors dull slightly when the eggs are chilled, so be a little bold with the seasoning.
3. Spoon or pipe the filling into the egg whites, sprinkle with paprika, and chill until ready to serve.
Tips and Techniques: Boiled eggs aren’t actually boiled. The secret to hard-cooked eggs that are not rubbery and have no green ring around the yolk is to cook them gently in very hot water rather than let them bounce around at a rolling boil.
Eggs that are at least one week old are more likely to peel easily and cleanly. As the eggs age, their liquid interior evaporates enough to create a wee bit of air space between the egg and the shell. An old-fashioned way to determine the freshness of an egg is submerge a whole uncooked egg in a bowl of water. If it lies flat on its side on the bottom of the bowl, it’s fresh. If it stands upright, it’s a little older and a good candidate for hard cooking. If it floats, it’s a very old egg and should be discarded.
Sheri Castle is a food writer and cooking instructor based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Visit the author’s website here. Become a fan of her book on Facebook here, or follow the author on Twitter @shericastle.
Recipes from The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes by Sheri Castle. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle.