Thursday, May 8, 2008
Everything's Better With Bacon
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am forever on a quest to get people over their food fears. I happen to love most of the weird green veggies with bad reputations, but I can understand one's trepidation when faced with mountains of spinach, brussels sprouts and lima beans. One of my favorite not-so-popular veggies is asparagus, which works in several preparations from appetizers to main course, and even works extremely well on the grill. I will personally eat it any way I can get it, whether it's steamed and dipped in mayo, oven roasted with tons of fragrant spices, or grilled and drizzled with dressing.
Asparagus is in season now and incredibly delicious. When it's cooked just right there's a subtle sweetness and a wonderful crunch to it. When it's overcooked it's limp and disappointing, which is one of the worst food faux pas that I could imagine, and probably the root of many a child's distaste for it. I've always found that it pairs best with slightly salty ingredients that compliments its sweetness, and I'm sure this will surprise no one, but I usually go with pork products. For parties I often wrap asparagus in prosciutto and roast it, then shave some Parmesan cheese over it. It's quick to cook, easy to eat, and definitely a crowd pleaser. This time I decided to pair the asparagus with bacon and shiitake mushrooms. I kept the asparagus whole and sautéed it with the chopped bacon and mushrooms, but it could definitely be cut on the diagonal and tossed with pasta or folded into an omelet. Any type of bacon (pork, turkey, or fake bacon) will do so long as it has that smoky flavor and slight saltiness associated with traditional bacon. Any meaty mushroom would work as well, but I'd avoid button mushrooms since they lack texture and flavor. This would certainly work as a vegetarian dish as well, I'd just add a little extra seasoning if you'd like to leave bacon out altogether. Here's my recipe:
Asparagus with Shiitake Mushrooms and Bacon
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
8 shiitake mushrooms, chopped, stems removed
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 small shallot (or half a large one) minced
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1. Cook asparagus in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Run under ice water to stop cooking. Dry and set aside.
2. Cook bacon in a medium sized skillet until crispy. Remove bacon from skillet and set aside, leaving rendered bacon fat in skillet.
3. Add olive oil (about 3 Tbsp) to skillet, along with shallot and garlic. Cook for about a minute then add lemon juice.
4. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add bacon to skillet along with asparagus, tossing to coat. Remove from the heat and drizzle with a bit more extra virgin olive oil. Plate asparagus topped with bacon/mushroom mixture . Enjoy!