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Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 07:10 am

Asparagi alla Stimpirata


These recipes in the Illinois Bed and Breakfast Cookbook were contributed by Tony Leone, proprieter of the Pasfield House. Other Pasfield House recipes appear in every one of the cookbook’s categories.

Running a B&B sounds appealing to me except the part about regularly rising before dawn to prepare guest breakfasts. Leone has a solution: He and his Pasfield staff prepare stratas in individual ramekins topped with each guest’s preferred toppings. They’re covered and placed in each suite’s refrigerator, along with any other pre-ordered breakfast items. Guests simply pop the stratas in their suite’s microwave, a sort of do-it-yourself room service for maximum privacy. That way the guests can have their breakfast as early or late as they desire — and so can Leone and his staff!

Leone prepared this dish for the RCS’s 2007 Columbus dinner. It’s an Italian take on a classic butter sauce. He doesn’t specify this, but I’ve found that unsalted butter is crucial to making successful butter sauces. Salted butter has a higher water content, making it susceptible to breaking (separating). Now that asparagus is out of season, try it on fish, as he suggests, or on green beans or broccoli – and next spring’s asparagus. .”

The word stimpirata means ‘to infuse flavor.’ This Sicilian method [sauce] is also used for poultry and fish, especially swordfish. Fresh, organic asparagus is outstanding this way because the acid content counteracts the natural bitterness of the vegetable. The color contrast lends a dynamic presentation to the dish.”

  • 1 large bunch fresh organic asparagus
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 c. capers, drained
  • 3/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 6 T. sweet [unsalted, cold] butter
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper

Bring two quarts of water to a boil in a medium pot and add about two tablespoons of salt. Fill a large bowl three-fourths with ice water and set aside. Cut the fibrous ends off the asparagus and cut the spears in half crosswise, at a diagonal to make the spears even lengths. Drop the asparagus in the boiling water and blanch [just] until bright green. [This should take a minute or less; the asparagus will not be fully cooked.]

Strain the asparagus and transfer to the ice water. Allow to cool thoroughly.

Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems and finely chop leaves only. Discard the stems. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat Melt two tablespoons of the butter in the pan and add the asparagus, rosemary and capers; raise the heat to high. When the pan sizzles, add the red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Reduce the liquid in the pan just until the asparagus is hot and becomes slightly tender, but still al dente. [Remove from the heat.] Cut the remaining butter into squares and gently stir into the asparagus and liquid gently to make a [creamy] sauce. Make sure it doesn’t separate. [If it does, it’ll still be tasty, but not creamy.] Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Read the related article Getting away close to home.

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