Friday, April 30, 2010

Leeds Locavore: Backyard Asparagus, Backyard Chickens

This week the asparagus is up in the backyard where I live in Leeds, MA.

Our first meal from the garden was entirely local -- an asparagus omelet with the spears (1001 ft.) picked just minutes before hitting the skillet and eggs from a friend's hens (16 miles away by car, 10 miles as the crow flies).

Asparagus grows in fits and starts, some fat, some thin and scattered all over the place, like clams. This is my friend Lora's backyard asparagus, a perennial both literally and figuratively. Like rhubarb it comes up every year, first thing out of the garden.

Recipe of the Week: Backyard Asparagus Omelet



WHAT

Pick Asparagus
Gather Eggs

HOW

Get a cast iron skillet very hot, but not smoking, add well oiled spears of asparagus, ends trimmed. Remove from pan and cut into into 1-1/2" pieces and set aside.

Wipe out skillet was wiped out and heat more oil plus some butter until almost smoking. The way to prepare an omelet that really celebrates the flavor of the eggs, is to cook it the way they do in France (3000 miles). It is a gentle preparation that requires a bit of mastery over the pan.

First the eggs are lightly beaten with a fork, three are ideal, and slide them gently into the pan. Then use the fork to swirl the eggs, gathering them up into the center of the pan. Once you've gotten control of the eggy mass with your fork, move the pan under the eggs so they don't stick but continue to cook. Motion is essential for even heat. (This takes a bit of practice but you will find yourself flipping the omelet in the air, a useful skill.)

When half of the omelet is slid onto the plate, add the asparagus and then flip the rest of omelet over it, making a perfect envelop of heat. Voila.

Perhaps this was because the asparagus and eggs were practically alive, or perhaps because the food was cooked with love or because the food was cooked in the French tradition, backyard lunch was a revelation The asparagus spears quite fat and they were tender and sweet. According to Lora, it was neither the provenance, nor the love, nor the French but her fertilizer -- chicken shit courtesy of our friend with the hens. The circle of life in Leeds continues.