As I mentioned in my previous post, the past few weeks was a frustrating succession of disappointment. I do have to admit though, there was one success that I was more than pleased with. Up at Mark's mom's for Easter, since we were going to have to drive back to Los Angeles on Sunday, we had our main meal on Saturday night. It consisted of crostini with a simple egg salad flavored with shallot and tarragon, a verdant fresh pea and spinach soup swirled with creme fraiche (well actually sour cream as I couldn't find any creme fraiche in Santa Maria) and a really nice roasted shallot and tarragon pesto. For the main course, my dear mother in law bough a baked ham and to go with it I made some apricot mustard and for our sides, sweet potato spoon bread and grilled asparagus with lemon herb bread crumbs. For dessert I made little individual rhubarb crisps which I served with vanilla ice cream.
Despite all the enthusiasm from Mark, his mother and brother, I wasn't completely happy with the results. The crostini was a little too crisp. The soup was fine. The sweet potato spoon bread wasn't done in the middle so I had to return it to the oven to set a little more. The rhubarb crisps were fantastic and I plan on posting them eventually, but overall, the whole meal just had me sort of stressed and the results didn't seem completely worth it. It wasn't really fun. The only thing that really worked was the roasted shallot and tarragon pesto.
The next day, I sort of threw together an impromptu brunch for the four of us. I grilled up some bread, roasted the rest of the asparagus, and gently scrambled a skillet full of eggs, then just piled everything together. As much as I liked the pesto the night before, spooned over the creamy eggs and slightly caramelized asparagus really made it pop. It was the kind of recipe that I was hell-bent on recreating as soon as possible. After all the pre-planning of the dinner and everything to go along with it, it was an off the cuff breakfast comprised of things that were either left over or just found in the fridge that tasted the best and felt the most satisfying.
(for the pesto)
2 large shallots, peeled and root end sliced off
2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup (packed) fresh tarragon
2/3 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons toasted, sliced almonds
2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
(for the eggs)
1/2 tablespoon of butter per person
2 eggs per person
1 tablespoon of creme fraiche or sour cream per person
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(for the asparagus)
4 stalks of asparagus per person
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(for the grilled bread)
1 thick slice of country bread per person
extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and root end sliced off
First make the pesto. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place shallots in a double layer square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil.
Gather the edges up and twist shut forming a little bundle. Roast the shallots for 30 minutes. Untwist and open up the foil and continue to roast the shallots until soft, about 20 minutes longer.
Puree shallots, any oil leftover in the foil, and 1/3 cup oil in food processor. Add another 1/3 cup oil, the tarragon, parsley, and almonds then puree.
Stir in the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Makes about 1 cup and can be made ahead of time. In fact, I would make it ahead of time. You don't want to be messing around with making pesto before breakfast.
To make the eggs, heat a nonstick skillet over very low heat and add the butter. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large bowl, add the creme fraiche, salt and pepper and whisk until combined. Once the butter has melted, add the eggs to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring every so often with a heat proof rubber spatula. Continue to cook until curds form but the eggs are still creamy, almost a little too wet. Depending on the number of eggs you use, this could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30.
While the eggs are cooking, roast the asparagus. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Trim off the tough, woody ends of the asparagus and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat, then scatter over the thyme. Roast in the oven for about 7 minutes or so, until the asparagus is bright green and crisp but tender.
While the eggs are cooking and the asparagus is roasting, make the garlic toasts. Heat a grill pan for 10 minutes over high heat. Brush each side of the thickly sliced bread with olive oil then place on the grill pan, pressing down a little. After about 3 minutes or so, flip the bread over, press down and continue to grill until the bread has nice dark grill marks. Remove the toast from the pan, then rub each side, especially the edges with the cut garlic. Set aside.
By this point the eggs ought to be done. Turn off the heat and let sit in pan and let the residual heat finish cooking the eggs. They will go from just a little too wet to perfectly creamy.
To assemble, place a garlic toast on a plate. Lay 4 stalks of asparagus on the toasts, pile with the creamy scrambled eggs, then add a generous dallop of pesto on top. Grind over a little pepper and serve.
I just love this pesto. Ever since I first made it I've been thinking of what else I could put it on. The tarragon's light anise flavor is rounded out by the shallots, which become sweet from the roasting. The olive oil is velvety and grassy and the toasted almonds and asiago add a depth of flavor as well as give the pesto a nice thickness and texture.
There are a number of ingredients that tarragon works extremely well with, eggs and asparagus being two of them. Just perfect. Then to pile everything on a thick slice of garlic tinged toast, the edges crisp and dark, middle still chewy and you really have a satisfying dish. For our Easter brunch, I also served these little open-faced sandwiches with little rosemary roasted red potatoes and thick bacon that was baked with brown sugar and a touch of cayenne until sweetly caramelized with just a hint of heat. The family raved. It was perfect for an Easter brunch but really it's easy enough for any old Sunday morning. Just add a glass of freshly squeezed juice, a cup of good coffee, and the newspaper.