I had an English professor in college who was swayed by type and font. While content was his real motivation you could often gain points with the nicest looking paper. Having a nice paper also got you called on in the classroom so if you were typing up answers your best bet was to know your stuff or to hide your paper (these were the days when typing was an option, not the norm).
I bring this up because I saw a picture of this dish in my facebook feed from Mario Batali and just had to try it. It’s simple and requires knowing how to boil water and crack an egg. I have always been of the mind that everything tastes better with an egg. And surprisingly this did wonders for the dish, tempering the bitterness of the asparagus with a coating of yolk. I’ve never eaten more fresh asparagus in one sitting than when it was made all Milanese. While the content of this dish is fresh and simple, its presentation and effects are profound. It left me wondering how long it took chefs to figure out that adding an egg to a vegetable would elevate both ingredients from limestone to marble.
Adapted from Mario Batali
Kosher salt, or sea salt
20 jumbo asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon salt, plus salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs (Mario Batali uses duck eggs)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
1 lemon, halved
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Set up an ice bath nearby. Blanch the asparagus spears in the boiling water for 1 minute and 30 seconds, then remove and immediately refresh in the ice bath. Once cooled, remove the asparagus from the ice bath with tongs and drain slightly. Set aside.
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Add the asparagus and toss in the oil over high heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, then divide evenly among 4 warmed dinner platters.
In a separate pan, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into the pan, taking care to keep the yolks intact. Cook the eggs sunny-side up until the whites are firm but the yolk is still runny. Season each egg with salt and pepper, the carefully slide 1 egg onto each serving. Grate the cheese over each plate, season with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.