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french fridays with dorie: asparagus and bits of bacon

To me, asparagus means spring has arrived. Local asparagus where I live doesn’t arrive until late spring, early June, usually, but with Easter this weekend, asparagus is abundant at the store this week, and on sale.

The recipe for French Fridays with Dorie this week is Asparagus with Bits of Bacon. This was a relatively simple side dish. Boiled asparagus tossed in a light citrusy dressing and topped with bacon and onion. Whoa!

When I cook asparagus, it’s usually steamed in the microwave and served plain, so this was much fancier. This recipe said to boil the asparagus in salted water, so I followed suit. I have to admit that the asparagus spears stayed a nice bright green and looked prettier than when they’re microwaved, so I’ll have to remember that.

The bacon is fried until crisp, and then chopped into bits. Then, you warm chopped onion and the bacon bits in some of the bacon fat. You aren’t supposed to cook the onion, but I really didn’t like the flavor of raw onion, so I just let the onion bits soften completely. The only bacon I could find was maple-flavored. I was nervous the final dish would have an off flavor, but it wasn’t noticeable.

Of course, the dilemma for me is always was to serve with the side, especially on with so much personality. The asparagus, with all the bacon, could almost have been the main course, I wasn’t sure how to round out the plate. I ended up going with something more traditional, leaving the bacony veggie as a side. Nigella Lawson helped me out. I had a porky meal with her Mustardy Pork Chops as the entrée, and her Rapid Roastini (sautéed gnocchi) for the starch.

I liked the asparagus, but if I made it again, I’d use less bacon to lighten it up. Otherwise, it was a nice change from plain veg.

Check out the other Dorista’s asparagus experiences here. We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. It’s definitely worth adding to your library.

Next week’s French Friday recipe is a little controversial, Sardine Rillettes. I’ll admit up front that I’m looking forward to it, but tune in next week to see if it lives up to my anticipation.

French Fridays with Dorie: Warm Weather Vegetable Pot au Feu

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie took me by surprise. I love vegetables, and I love soups and stews. And yet, when I read the recipe through, I felt ambivalent. Even the picture didn’t help. But I carried on.

Though Dorie says to use whatever’s fresh in this recipe, I stuck with the vegetables called for, including the lemongrass, because they all looked great at the market. The asparagus and the baby spinach were local. Also in the mix were a Vidalia onion, a leek, carrots, baby potatoes, and shiitake mushrooms.

I found the recipe a little vague about how to cut up some of the vegetables. It seemed like the leek and asparagus were left whole, but I don’t like having to cut things when I’m eating with a spoon. I ended up thinly slicing the quartered leek and cutting the (unpeeled) asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces. Also, I used only half the spinach called for because more seemed overwhelming.

Because this dish was simply vegetables in broth, I knew the flavor of the broth would be key to the success of the dish. I thought I had homemade chicken broth in the freezer, but instead, I struck gold when I came across a container of duck stock I’d forgotten about.

When the pot au feu was done and I tasted the broth for seasoning, I was surprised by how sweet and springy and delicious it was. I loved it! After our violent midweek thunderstorm (fortunately no tornadoes here), the oppressive heat has been traded for crispness in the air (almost like fall, even though it’s June). A bowl of light soup was perfect for the cooler weather.

I served this in low and wide pasta bowls, with a poached egg in each bowl. I also snipped from herbs from the garden: chervil, tarragon, and parsley to sprinkle over top.

I was pleasantly surprised how fast it all came together. Dinner was ready in less than an hour. I did have help. Howard helped with chopping the vegetables and poaching the eggs. He also made some quick guacamole to snack on while we cooked. I like having a sous chef!

I can definitely see making this one again, varying the vegetables with the season. Once again, even though I wasn’t that excited about the recipe at the start, it turned out to be a winner.

Dorie said that leftovers on this won’t be so good, but we only ate half, so we’ll give it a go again tomorrow.

I do have a lot of leftover lemongrass. I had to buy a bundle with several stalks, and only used a 2-inch piece. Anyone have suggestions of how to use the rest?

One of the high points of my weekends is reading the posts of the other FFwD bloggers to see how they changed up this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Maybe you’ll even want to cook along with us on Fridays. It’s a blast!