Asparagus at its peak—bright green, tender, and sweet—can’t be beat. Here we add poached eggs to enrich it, along with some ham, which of course goes great with the egg. We balance the richness with some vinegar and add fried croutons for texture.–Thomas Keller
LC Croutons By Any Other Name Note
Croutons are croutons, you may think. But the croutons in this little asparagus number are sorta special in a knee-wobbingly rich, crunchy way that only chefs can achieve—until now.
To poach the eggs, bring 6 to 8 inches of water to a boil in a large, deep saucepan. Prepare an ice bath. Add the vinegar to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup or ramekin. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water at the edge of the pan twice in a circular motion to get the water moving, then add the egg to the center of the pan. Simmer gently for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the egg to the ice bath. Skim and discard any foam that has risen to the top of the boiling water. Cook the remaining eggs in the same fashion, 1 at a time. (The eggs can be poached several hours ahead and stored in ice water in the refrigerator.)
When you are ready to cook the asparagus, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for cooking over medium heat or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Hold an asparagus spear with your hands and bend it to break off the less tender bottom end. Trim all of the asparagus to the same length. If using medium or large asparagus, peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler. Spread the asparagus on the parchment-lined baking sheet, generously coat with canola oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the asparagus on the grill or, working in batches, in the grill pan. Cook the asparagus until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, flipping with a narrow spatula. Arrange the asparagus on a platter.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer. If you’re a perfectionist, an aspiring three-star chef, or you just can’t help yourself, use a small pair of scissors to trim any uneven edges from the poached eggs. Using a skimmer or a slotted spoon, lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Remove the eggs and blot the bottoms with paper towels.
Season the eggs with salt and pepper and place them around the asparagus. Arrange the prosciutto and torn croutons on the platter, then drizzle all of the components with olive oil and balsamic and sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.
Textures galore! As long as you don’t overcook the asparagus or the egg, this is a no-brainer that yields a great spring or fall bistro brunch. Follow the directions exactly for a perfect poached egg (though, you really don’t need the vinegar; just swirl the water before you drop the egg in). Season thoroughly, but with a light hand, for the prosciutto will provide the majority of the salt that you’ll need.