Spring in Italy means it’s time to take advantage of wonderful new seasonal vegetables and the markets just happen to be overflowing with beautiful bunches of Asparagus at the moment! I love to eat Asparagus with a crunchy bite to it, so if the Asparagus spears are particularly thin, I’ll just blanch them in boiling water. There is no injustice greater than cooking Asparagus too much, reducing it to a pale, insipid and mushy meal. Having said that, this recipe is the only exception to eating Asparagus soft. It is often served as an antipasto, but it could be a luxurious side dish, or eaten as a main meal. I wanted to call this recipe Asparagus Soufflè because it reminds me of a soufflè, but apparently it’s a ‘flan’!
SFORMATO DI ASPARAGI – ASPARAGUS FLAN 🍴700g Asparagus 🍴200ml Fresh Cream 🍴5 Egg Whites 🍴100g Pecorino Romano, grated finely 🍴1 large Leek 🍴Olive Oil 🍴salt & pepper
Discard the hard ends of each Asparagus spear. Cut off the Asparagus tips and put them aside. These will be used later for garnish. Slice remaining Asparagus in small pieces. Grease 6 x 250ml capacity ramekins with butter, and position in a deep baking dish. Chop leek finely and add to a frying pan with a small amount of Olive Oil. Cook on low heat until transparent, being careful not to burn them. (Burnt leeks will ruin the final taste of any dish)! Add chopped asparagus to the leeks, increase heat and cook, adding water (or vegetable broth) occasionally to facilitate the cooking of the asparagus. Adding liquid also helps in preventing the frying pan getting too dry. Cook until asparagus is soft, and liquid has disappeared. Transfer asparagus and leeks to a food processor and puree until smooth. Add cream and cheese, process again until well combined and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, add egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form. Gently fold asparagus mixture into egg whites until it is all incorporated. Fill ramekins, dividing mixture evenly. Add water to baking dish carefully until it comes halfway up the ramekins. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes. Boil water in a small saucepan to blanch Asparagus tips. Add Asparagus to boiling water, and remove almost immediately. Place under running cold water or place in a bowl with ice and water. Gently pat dry with a clean tea towel or absorbent kitchen paper. Coat very lightly with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can use this to garnish final dish. Allow to cool a little before turning flan’s out onto plates. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the ramekins and invert onto serving plates. Garnish with asparagus tips. Sprinkle with some grated Pecorino Romano and some freshly cracked black pepper.
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