Alain Passard’s 90 Minute Asparagus

de6575217e6c288d0dec2276a018edfeAsparagus’s first shoots have been popping up all over fields and gardens in Southern California for the last few weeks. They are a food lover’s early Spring harbinger telling us Winter is almost done and soon our tables will be overflowing with morels, fava beans, ramps, Alaskan halibut and other culinary delights.  It’s especially good news for those who live in parts of the country still buried under mountains of snow not believing that Winter will actually end soon.

I pre-ordered Michelin three star Chef Alain Passard’s highly anticipated vegetable book “The Art of Cooking with Vegetables”  from Amazon as soon as it was offered.  When it arrived, I leafed through it, loved the simplicity, then put it on a shelf and promptly forgot about it.  That’s one of the problems facing a cookbook addict who owns more than 2,000 cookbooks.  There ought to be a 12 step program for book hogs like myself who cannot refuse new releases.  Just the other day I picked it up again and became enthralled with Passard’s recipe titled “Stand Up Asparagus”, a recipe genius in it’s simplicity though it sounds a tad like a dish DeNiro would have ordered in Goodfellas.

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The recipe called for “the freshest possible asparagus with tightly closed tips and firm stalks” so on Sunday we went to the La Quinta farmer’s market and picked up a few bunches of just picked asparagus.  I trimmed off the bottoms, wrapped them in buttered parchment and bundled them together with kitchen twine.  I clarified 5 ounces of fresh sweet cream butter and put it into a one quart pot along with the asparagus bundles and slowly cooked  it for 90 minutes on super low heat, basting every twenty minutes.

asparagus 41The result is asparagus nirvana.  The stalks are perfectly cooked and tender with the tips still bright green with a light crunch.  Alain suggests serving with a poached egg and all that delicious asparagus butter.  Certainly you cannot go wrong with the classic combination but if you are adventurous and your arteries are not in imminent danger of clogging, you could poach an egg AND make a Hollandaise with the resulting asparagus butter.  For those of us pushing the limit of rich dishes consumed over a lifetime of eating great food you may want to consider charging the defibrillator prior to tackling this dish!

Chef F… Eat till you bleed!

Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Sometimes copying is the sincerest form of flattery.  This dish originated in my repertoire after a cook book written by the folks of Boulevard.  Who doesn’t love a cook book with an obvious slant towards adding bacon to everything.  I never ate there but I love them!   Here is my version:

Asparagus with 63 degree egg

Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Chef François de Mélogue

Ingredients for four servings:

20                    Asparagus Spears, cooked, cooled

4                      63 degree Eggs, peeled

½ c                 Parmesan Fondutta

4                      sliced crispy Speck

4 oz                baby Frisee



Mise en Place:


1                       63 degree egg: cook eggs in circulator at 62.5 for one hour.

2                       Lay speck in a single layer on silsheet.  Cook in 200 degree oven for three hours.


To Order:


  1. 1.              Lay five asparagus spears on rectangle plate.
  2. 2.              Spoon fondutta over stalks.
  3. 3.              Top with speck then egg.
  4. 4.              Cover asparagus base with frisée tossed in olive oil.


Parmesan Fondutta

Ingredients for four servings:


1 c                  Cream

1/2  c             Parmesan

2                      Egg Yolks

pinch             Nutmeg

Mise en Place:


Boil cream, add cheese and nutmeg.  Whisk in egg yolks.

Day Two: 3:56 AM

Paris 040712 08Day two began altogether too early.  Little Beau woke up at 3:56 completely awake and full of life.  Apparently he did not get the memo about the time change and proceeded to flick on and off light switches till we all surrendered to being awake.  Lisa went as far as showering and applying makeup while I dug in the trenches and tried to fight infant Satan with all my snoring powers.  Even Lisa joined Beau on the dark side insisting I shower at 4:23 and start the day.  Luckily by 5:34 Beau, Lisa and myself and fallen back into heavy slumber till 10 am.

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Day two re-began now at a more sensible hour with café crème, croissant and pain au chocolat.  We strolled along the Seine snapping shots and generally wandering kind of in search of a converter to restore electric power to our dying laptop.  Low and behold we ended up running into Jean Paul Hevin, a famous chocolate shop, for late morning Chocolate cigars and mille Feuille then into Pierre Herme’s simpler pastry shop for macaroons and drinking cocoa.  Yes Bacchus, gluttony has begun.  Somewhere past the Louvre we hopped in a motorized rickshaw for a thrilling ride thru gay Paris to our lunch reservation at La Fermette Marbeuf, an unbelievable beautiful restaurant dating back to the late 1800’s that almost was destroyed in the 1970’s being saved by workmen who discovered the famous art nouveau stained glass below coats of paint and plaster.

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Lunch was amazing, edible trip back to my favorite period of cuisine (1870’s to 1930’s).  We started with a puree of mushrooms with crispy parmesan while deciding on our order.  I opted for a torchon of foie gras with fig compote while Lisa chose the season’s first white asparagus of the season from Nantes served with a poached egg and an amazing Hollandaise.  My foie gras slathered on pain grilles melted in my mouth.  Beaumont had a mini meltdown which allowed me to steal two plump spears of asparagus while Lisa took Beau outside the restaurant.   I admit I felt tinges of guilt during the episode.  Beau and Lisa returned and we continued with our lunch.  We drank a delicious Bordeaux, Le Clementine du Chateau Pape Clement 2004, that married well with my foie gras and both our main courses.

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Lisa continued with Magret de Canard, the steak like breast from a duck who gave it’s life in the service of foie gras production, served atop a pile of roasted fingerlings, carrots and haricots verts while I opted for the most tender and amazing milk fed veal dish I have ever eaten: escalopes de veau panée Viennoise.  Who knew how tender a baby veal could be snatched from it’s mother?  I had a cheese plate and Lisa had Crepes Suzette for dessert.

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After espresso’s we continued our pilgrimage for chocolate shops and all things designed to stretch our stomachs.  Walking thru Paris with a wine buzz is great.  We ended up at chocolat shop number three and Pierre Herme shop number two.  I am surprised they didn’t remember Lisa from our last trip through Paris as she bought 188 Euros worth of desserts in three minutes.  This time we escaped with only a 66 Euro bill.  I played with Beau by a famous fountain while she shopped for pastries.

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Fatigued and tired of walking miles and, excusez moi, kilometers and kilometers thru Paris’s ancient streets we hopped a cab and ended up back at the Hotel Agora.  Still saturated from lunch’s excesses we headed out for a Fruits de Mer platter in the Les Halles section of town…  one more bottle of wine and a big platter later we were in seafood comatose…

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The saga continues…

49 Years Old… Damn, how did I get here?

dj red foo

Another one of these short posts…  49?  How the hell did I get here?  I still feel 18 years old till (a) I try to get out of bed and (b) I look in the mirror.  Tonight could not have been better than it was.  Our opening party and we (that is my kitchen staff), totally fucking crushed it.  We had so many obstacles, first a kitchen that was supposed to be done and ready to roll, then a one day approval that failed on the day of the event…  three menu rewrites…  Through that my entire kitchen staff held the faith and towed the line.  To each and every one of them I am beyond thankful.  To my sous chef Alex Hernandez and to guest chef John Villalba, undying love and affection and big thanks.  A chef can never claim to stand on his own two feet without the support of their sous chefs.  They truly are the unsung heroes of the kitchen world.  Tonight we did an amazing opening party for a children’s benefit with tennis superstars, Hollywood stars and the good natured customers who support these events.  I came home to a beautiful wifey with an amazing cocktail in hand…  I should mention Debbie Wolvos, photographer goddess supreme gave me an amazing Chateau Margaux 1989 as a birthday gift… Wow, age 49, has my life finally peaked?

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Asparagus Puree, Crunchy Brioche, 1,000 Year Old Olive Oil