Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm Not Chucking Asparagus (I'm wrapping it in prosciutto)

So there I was in the midst of my misery, when I got a friend request on Facebook.  I love friend requests.  What's not to love?  Thank you for being my friend!

This one blew me away when I saw the name.  It was from my sister.  Yes, I have a sister.  From another mother, but the same mister.  This request thrilled me because Nora is not big on computers, and has never been on Facebook.  But her daughter, my niece Rachel has, and to make it easier for my sister and I to keep in touch, Rachel set up the Facebook account. Things like that are better than gabapentin.  Thank you, Rachel, and welcome to Facebook, Nora.

There was no way I was going to have to chuck out almost 2 pounds of gorgeous asparagus, no matter how lousy I was feeling, so I gathered my strength and the shreds of my dignity, and headed into the kitchen.

We had picked the asparagus and prosciutto up on Sunday, during our Big Box shopping expedition.  BJs had nice mushrooms, so I grabbed a box, with plans on drowning them in wine and butter.  When it came to green vegetables, it was a choice of fresh green beans, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus.  I left it to Rob, and he went for the asparagus.  Good call.  I know a couple of ways to prepare asparagus, including drizzling them with an unctuous blender Hollandaise, but I opted instead to wrap them in prosciutto.  Easy, right?

Now it's late in the Hump Day, and I've been practically incapacitated by this freaking fibromyalgia, and I am worried about losing my asparagus to some kind of refrigerator jungle rot.  It's now or never, I figure.  I'll just take breaks between the steps in preparation.

1 3/4 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed (I just cut them with a big sharp knife)
1 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons "Mild" Jamaican Jolt Jerk Rub (or any herb and spice combination)
roasted garlic extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the softened cream cheese, lemon juice, and Jamaican Jolt and place into a ziptop plastic bag, pressing the mixture towards one corner, and making a small snip at the tip.  Lay out the prosciutto slices, four to six at a time.  Refrigerate the remaining prosciutto while preparing the roll ups.  Place two asparagus spears next to each other, towards one short end of each prosciutto slice. Pipe a column of cream cheese between the asparagus spears, then roll the prosciutto around the spears, covering the cream cheese carefully. Drizzle some of the olive oil over the exposed asparagus, and season with some of the pepper.  Place in the oven and roast the asparagus prosciutto rolls for 30 minutes.

So, with all the rest breaks, it is taking me for-frakking-ever.  The first batch of six came out beautiful but the asparagus was too tough after the recommended 20 minute cooking period.  The next batch is still in the oven with a 30 minute bake time.

For the last batch I am trying something I saw Robert Irvine do in one of his online recipes. Instead of roasting the whole package and hoping the asparagus and the prosciutto are perfectly done at the same time, I am cooking the asparagus first in boiling water, chilling it down immediately, and then applying the cream cheese filling and wrapping it in the prosciutto.  Most importantly, I am not putting it in the oven.  Prosciutto does nor need to be cooked to be eaten - think of melon wrapped in prosciutto, an appetizer that has never gone out of popularity.

I took a lot of pictures, so it will all make sense. I hope.

"Mild" Jamaican Jolt Dry Rub for those with a delicate palate:  (and here is a link to the original by Steven Raichlen)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup freeze dried chives
2 tablespoons coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Transfer to a large jar.  I keep this in my spice cabinet.

Later, after Cory came in from work and was piling his plate high with goodies from the fridge, we consulted regarding the asparagus.  This is a dish he knows well, as he has made it a number of times (without the cream cheese).  He liked both versions, and then told me how he handles the whole asparagus-doesn't-cook-as-fast-as-prosciutto issue:  he roasts the asparagus part-way first, lets the spears cool, and then wraps them in the prosciutto.  Returns them to the oven and voila! Everything cooks together, to the correct doneness, at the same time. My kid is a genius.

My personal preference turned out to be the cold version - boiled and chilled asparagus, a ribbon of seasoned cream cheese, all wrapped in prosciutto.  To my taste, perfect.

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