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Spring Asparagus Milanese

Bunches of bright green asparagus in various thicknesses are one of the first signs in an Italian vegetable market that winter has finally given way to spring. The thinnest spears are gathered wild in the countryside, their scarcity and brief seasonality translating into a relatively high price tag. Wild asparagus is a prized ingredient in frittatas and the occasional pasta sauce. Medium-stalked cultivated asparagus is used for this dish, which, though meatless, is considered substantial enough to be offered as a main course, accompanied with a green salad. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. medium asparagus spears, tough ends removed 
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 4 extra-large eggs 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

Directions:

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and divide the spears evenly among warmed plates.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Break each egg into the pan, taking care not to puncture the yolk or let the egg whites overlap. Cook for 2 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. water into the pan, cover and cook until the whites are solid but the yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes more.

Using a spatula, carefully drape 1 fried egg over each serving of asparagus. Sprinkle each serving liberally with the cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).