I just returned from one of the most beautiful parts of the world, Alto Adige, Italy. The region, in far northeast Italy was a part of Austria for much of its existence, formerly the most southern area of the country and warmest, so a producer of the red wines of the country. However, the region is rather cool and rainy, with elevations soaring high into the thousands of feet at the foothills of the Italian Alps, making this region more ideal for growing white wine, which today it has become known for. It is a farming region with most of the industries in the area either growing vines or growing apples. The people eat hearty, with bread dishes, like knodel dumplings, and butter sauces dominating the diet. But there are also beautiful vegetables, like the stunning white asparagus that fills tables throughout Europe every spring.
The French have their hollandaise sauce that they slather over asparagus, Here, the Italians in Alto Adige have their Bolzano sauce, named after the main town of the region, filled with eggs, chives, lemon juice and olive oil. Fresh and creamy, delicious with green asparagus too, as we had it the other evening. The dish is rich but fresh so a crisp Chardonnay will work well, as well as one of the stellar Pinot Gris/Grigio wines from the area. If you haven’t tried one of these wines and think you may not like how fruit forward Pinot Grigio can be, trust me you will like this. Thanks to the diurnal shift in the temperatures throughout the day the wines of the region maintain amazing crispness and acidity, while melding in a balance of citrus, stone and tree fruit. They are beautiful wines. Tiefenbrunner and Terlan both make beautiful selections, both available at Spec’s.
Asparagus with Sauce Bolzano
1-2 pounds asparagus (depending on how many you are cooking for,) trimmed, washed and set aside.
4 eggs, hard boiled
Juice of 1 lemon and zest, seperated
3 tablespoons snipped chives, divided 2 to 1
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3/4 – 1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Shredded parmesan cheese.
Optional – Speck ham or prosciutto
Optional – red pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Add the asparagus and blanch until just cooked through but still slightly crisp. Drain and lay on a sheet pan to cool and dry. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut them in half. Scoop the egg yolk into a bowl. Chop the egg whites and add to a bowl with two tablespoons chives, 1 tablespoon parsley and half the lemon zest. Set aside. Mash the egg yolks with a fork to break them into almost a powdery consistency. Add the mustard, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, vinegar and whisk to combine then slowly start to drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to create an emulsion. You could also add all the wet ingredients with the egg yolk to a sealable jar and shake to create the emulsion, or use a blender drizzling the oil in to the top of the machine while it is on a low speed.
Add the egg whites and herbs to the egg yolk mixture, folding to combine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Though completely nontraditional, I added a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce as well for a touch of heat. Place the asparagus in the oven for 3 minutes, just to heat them through. Whisk the butter and remaining lemon juice together and toss over the warmed asparagus. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Plate the asparagus on a large serving dish and sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese, remaining chives, lemon zest and parsley. We also added a bit of oven crisped, thinly sliced and chopped prosciutto, but Speck ham is the traditional cured ham from the region. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the sauce on top of the asparagus as well as some in a pretty dish on the side.
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