The perfect time to make this dish is springtime, when both crawfish and asparagus are excellent and inexpensive. The flavor blend, enriched by the hollandaise, is remarkable. What makes it especially appealing is glazing the hollandaise, a simple old technique not often enough employed. You stack up the asparagus and flow the hollandaise over it. Then you run the whole pile under a broiler until it it gets a little brown on the outside and begins to set beneath it all. Trick: use some beaten egg whites when making the hollandaise. (About one egg white per two yolks. )
- 1 lb. asparagus, bottom inch or two cut off
- 1/2 cup cooked crawfish tails
- 2 Tbs. finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup hollandaise sauce (see recipe)
- Cayenne pepper
1. The best way to cook the asparagus is in a steamer, but it can also be done in a large skillet. For the latter, bring a half-inch of water to a slow boil and drop the asparagus in it. Let the asparagus cook about two minutes. Remove, being careful not to break them. Run cold water over the asparagus to stop the cooking, and drain.
2. Heat the broiler. Arrange the asparagus in one row, all parallel to one another, on a broiling pan. Sprinkle the crawfish and the Parmesan cheese around the center of the asparagus. Pour the hollandaise over the center of the asparagus row, leaving the tips clean.
3. Broil the asparagus until the hollandaise begins to glaze light brown on the top. Remove from the oven. Remove six to ten at a time with the topping intact, using a long metal spatula. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne.
Hollandaise is one of the “mother sauces” of classical French cooking, and widely used around New Orleans, where it usually contains an extra pinch of cayenne. It’s not hard to make if you can keep it from breaking, which will happen if the sauce gets too hot once the butter goes in. I avoid this by whisking in the butter in softened, not melted form.
Hollandaise should be made right before it’s needed. If you try to keep it warm, it might break. If that happens, you can sometimes bring it back by adding a little warm water. If that doesn’t work, start with a fresh bowl with one egg yolk, and slowly whisk the broken sauce into it.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1 stick plus 3 Tbs. butter, softened
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Pinch cayenne
1. Whisk the egg yolks and the vinegar briskly in a metal bowl set over a saucepan with about an inch of simmering water at the bottom. If you see even a hint of curdling in the eggs, take the bowl off the heat, but keep whisking. Keep going back and forth from the heat until the mixture turns thick and lightens in color. Whisk in a tablespoon of warm water.
2. Begin adding the softened butter, a pat at a time. After about a fourth of the butter is in there, you’ll begin to see a change in the texture of the sauce. At that point, you can step up the addition of the butter a bit, and keep going till all the butter is incorporated.
3. Whisk in the cayenne and the lemon juice and serve right away.
Makes about 3/4 cup.