ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH QUAIL EGGS
Asparagus is something to celebrate in France. Its arrival is indisputable evidence that Spring has arrived, and it comes to the South of France rst, with all the earthy Mediterranean vegetables. But let’s not bring up artichokes Barigoule today. Asparagus is our Star. I have a preference for sweet green asparagus, but the ‘violet’ asparagus is delicious as well, and slightly more toothsome. Here I blanch the asparagus, then roast in pancetta with some soft-baked quail eggs and Parmesan cheese, to make a mix-it-yourself sort of sauce on your plate. for 4 persons • about 20 asparagus spears, cut to the same length, stems peeled
• 8 slices Pancetta or bacon • olive oil
• salt and pepper
• 1 cup Parmesan cheese
• 16 quail eggs
• 1 large gratin dish or
4 individual ones Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the asparagus until barely tender, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size. Drain. Wrap bundles of 5 spears in the Pancetta or bacon and lay them in an oiled gratin dish, or dishes. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the Parmesan cheese shavings carelessly and abundantly over the top of the bundles. Bake in a 200C/400F until the Pancetta is browned and the Parmesan melts, 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Break the raw quail eggs (easier to use a scissors) and place them on and around the bundles, allowing 4 per serving. Return to the oven and bake just until the whites of the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny, 2 minutes. Break out a chilled Rosé and some crusty bread and attack!