Asparagus With Crispy Hazelnut Duck Eggs
Spears of new season asparagus in a piquant lemon and hazelnut dressing topped with a golden fried soft duck egg.
Deep fried eggs where all the rage in Dublin restaurants a couple of years back. I don’t know which chef first came up with the idea, but its ingenious. Tasty doesn’t even begin to describe these crispy little pillows of eggey comfort. They’re also a chefs dream because all the hard work can be done ahead of time. You can have them breaded and ready to go in the fridge and it takes just 30 seconds to quickly fry them.
To make deep-fried eggs first you’ve got to lightly poach them so that the yolks stay soft, runny, and molten. Than their gently dipped in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs (I used some brioche crumb laced with roasted hazelnuts here for extra richness and a super crispy finish) then quickly fried till golden.
You could of course use a regular hens eggs if you can’t get duck eggs or their not your thing. Some people find their rich flavour a little strong. The other major difference between hens and duck eggs is in size. Duck eggs being much bigger. Bakers swear by them for well risen cakes and rich pastries.
Here I’ve teamed up my deep-fried eggs with some simply boiled new season asparagus for a different take on the classic asparagus with hollandaise sauce. The sweet tasting asparagus works well with the richness of the eggs. As a substitute for the piquant hollandaise sauce I whipped up a simple dressing with hazelnut oil, lemon juice, butter, and some more of the roasted hazelnuts for an added nutty flavour hit.
The months of may and june are officially asparagus season in this part of the world. But you’d never know it if you made a trip down to the supermarket. The shelves are still packed with the Peruvian imports from thousands of miles away. I’m not even sure if there are any asparagus growers here in Ireland. Maybe the short season means it’s not an economically viable crop here, I really don’t know but it’s a bit of a shame.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a couple of bunches of English asparagus (they’ve had a bumper crop over there this year) and if you can get your hands on some than snap it up. Its got a wonderful sweet flavour when compared to Peruvian asparagus.
Cook it as soon as you get it home though. If left sitting around the kitchen all the natural sugars turn to starch and it won’t be as sweet tasting. This is what happens to the asparagus from Peru because it has to travel such a distance. I’ve often read that the best time to eat asparagus is when it’s been plucked straight from the ground but the only chance of that happening is if I put my own crop down in the back garden.
To peel or not to peel that’s the question. Maybe it’s because I’m a chef but personally I nearly always give asparagus a quick peel before I cook it unless I’m using the small baby stuff. Do this on an upturned bowl so as not to put too much pressure on the asparagus spear causing it to snap.
You don’t have to peel it though it will taste just fine. Some say the best part is the skin and it’s where all the nutrients are. But not too worry you can always use the peelings in a soup along with the stalky bit at the end which has to trimmed off. When I’m preparing asparagus i like to line it all up on my chopping board and cut all the end bits off at the same point so all my asparagus is the same size….talk about ocd!
Years ago when I was young commis chef, long before grilled asparagus was trendy, the cookery method of choice was boiling. Before hand though the asparagus had to be carefully peeled and tied into neat little bundles.
The thinking was that tieing it together stopped it been broken up in the rapidly boiling water. Remember asparagus was a treat, the Rolls Royce of vegetables, expensive, with a really short season. You wanted to make sure every last spear was perfectly cooked and made it onto a customers plate.
These days with asparagus being so cheap and available year round chefs just bung it on a grill or into some boiling water. But with this asparagus being the first new season stuff I’ve eaten in a couple of years I gave it the respect it deserved and got my ball of twine out.
Whats your favourite way to eat asparagus?
for the eggs
- 4 duck eggs
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 50g / 1oz flour
- 1 egg
- 50ml / .25 cup milk
- 25g / 1oz hazelnuts (roasted, skins removed and finely chopped)
- 60g / 2.5 oz breadcrumbs (made from brioche)
for the dressing
- 15ml / 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 30ml / 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 25g / 1 oz butter
- juice of half a lemon
- 10g / .5 oz chives (finely chopped)
to fry the eggs
- .5 lt / 1 pint vegetable oil
- Bring a pot of water to the boil that will comfortably hold the eggs for poaching and add the vinegar.
- Gently crack the eggs into the water and poach them for 3/ 4 minutes. Remove the eggs into icy water to stop them cooking. The eggs should be firm enough to handle but still soft in the center.
- Add half of the chopped hazelnuts to the broich crumb, Than beat the egg and add in the milk.
- Next drain the poached eggs well and gently coat each one in the flour, egg, and finally the breadcrumb. They can be kept in your fridge like this for 24 hours.
- To make the dressing melt the butter in a small pan and whisk in the olive and hazelnut oil. Gently heat the dressing till warm then add the remaining chopped hazelnuts, chives, and lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the asparagus. Cook for approximately 5 minutes depending on the size. The asparagus should still a little crunchy in the middle.
- Drain the asparagus well on kitchen towels before adding it to the warm dressing.
- Heat the vegetable oil to 180c / 350f and deep fry the eggs till crunchy and golden. drain well and season with a little salt
- To serve place 8 asparagus spears in the centre of each plate. Spoon over a generous amount of the hazelnut dressing and top with the crispy duck eggs.
Deep fried eggs also go amazingly well with poached or steamed fish. Especially anything smoked, think haddock or cod. Thier crisp texture really complements the soft flesh of the fish.