Party invitations are starting to maraud my inbox; leaving the morning after Halloween and arriving home in mid-November, it’s suddenly time to look at the calendar and check off dates for parties and cookie exchanges (maybe another this year?) and all the fun stuff that leads up to Christmas, and think about all the baking there is to be done, and dream up food that can be eaten with your fingers. (For the aforementioned party, of course.)
Since Christmas is in Six! Weeks! I thought I’d post 12 days of holiday-inspired recipes (cliché I know, but there’s no way around it) – two each week: breakfasty things and gifty things and cocktail party things, and then give a fun kitchen toy away each Friday. Deal? And Wednesday’s recipe will hint at the giveaway on Friday. Fun and games! This particular recipe counts as party food and brunch food. Double whammy.
I know asparagus season is long gone, but these are really crazy tasty, the perfect combination of gooey-salty-crunchy, and can be assembled ahead and finished up in the oven or skillet or on the grill in a few minutes. Every December our Christmas party theme is polyester and cheese – wear polyester, bring cheese – and we wind up with a dining room table practically buckling under the weight of all the dairy products. Besides chunks of cheese, cheese balls and baked brie, there’s usually a batch or two of homemade cheese crackers and maybe some feta marinated in garlicky olive oil. This year I’ll splint spears of asparagus with long chunks of queso fresco, held in place with a piece of tacky prosciutto, which holds everything tightly in place as it cooks.
All three components of these little tasties go well with balsamic – a dribble of balsamic reduction is never a bad idea (not too much if you’re eating with your fingers), or for something really indulgent, mix up a batch of hollandaise – maybe with pepper and Pecorino? Thick enough for dipping, or dribbling overtop if these wind up on a platter for brunch.
London Drugs has offered up prizes for our holiday series, and so I browsed the kitchen appliances aisle for some things Santa might bring those of us who like to cook. An indoor grill would work well for these – I don’t have one, but if you’re not the type to pull on your boots and trudge outside to fire up the snowy barbecue, it might be worth adding to your wish list.
Grilled Asparagus with Queso Fresco & Prosciutto
balsamic reduction or Hollandaise, for serving (optional)
Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Snap the tough ends of the asparagus off where they naturally break. (This isn’t necessary when using Edgar Farms asparagus, as they harvest theirs by hand.) Cut the Queso Fresco into 1/4-1/3″ thick slices and place one piece up against each asparagus stalk; wrap a single (or half) slice of prosciutto around it to hold it on.
Grill for 3-4 minutes, turning as necessary, until the asparagus is charred, the prosciutto is crisp on the edges and shrinks tighter around the cheese and asparagus, and the cheese is oozing a bit out each end. Serve immediately.
Pecorino & Pepper Hollandaise
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
juice of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup butter
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Place the egg yolk and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine. Put the butter into a small saucepan or Pyrex measuring cup and heat on the stovetop or in the microwave until melted and hot. With the motor running, slowly pour the butter into the blender through the feed tube (or hole in the lid) until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is slightly thick. Grind in some black pepper, add the cheese and pulse to combine.
Serve soon (it will solidify once refrigerated). Makes about 1 cup.