Close Up of Asparagus Tips
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Daniel Boulud's Asparagus Clafoutis



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“The three great stumbling blocks in a girl’s education…
homard à l’Américaine, a boiled egg, and asparagus.”

~ Colette, in "Gigi"

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Asparagus Pickers, 13th Century
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A Bunch of Asparagus, 1880, Formerly in the Collection of Painter Max Liebermann
A Bunch of Asparagus, 1880,
Formerly in the Collection of Painter Max Liebermann
Giclee Print

Manet, Édouard
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Asparagus Clafoutis
Daniel Boulud
The New York Times, June 17, 1998

"The clafoutis has a long and controversial history. The mother of all clafoutis
is the one with sweet black cherries that put the Limousin region of France
on the gastronomic map. But even as it was winning admirers, it was causing
a rift between the Academie Francaise, the guardians of the French language,
who defined it as a flan, and the Limousins, who insisted it was a cake. The
Limousins prevailed.

I can't imagine what either would say about this clafoutis, which celebrates
one of my favorite vegetables, asparagus. My rendition is savory, baked in a
crust, and harks back to the quiche, a recipe that is at least a half-sister to
the clafoutis.
The traditional clafoutis batter is a direct descendant of the one used to make
a crepe, but for this version I have replaced the flour with a puree of asparagus
and ramps, the garlicky wild spring onions. (If you can't find ramps, garlic can
be used.) I mix the puree with eggs and heavy cream, season it well and then
bake it slowly so that the filling retains its spring-green color and custardy tex-
ture, the better to contrast with the crumbly, buttery crust and the slightly firm
sautéed mushrooms, Texas onions and thin slices of blanched asparagus, which
are scattered over the bottom of the tart.
In order to get the most flavor out of the puree, it is important to make sure
that after you blanch the asparagus and ramps, you dry them very well. It is
not overkill to wrap the vegetables in several changes of paper towels and
allow them to dry.
I serve this with a salad of blanched asparagus spears, sliced mushrooms
and purslane, dressed with nut oil and sherry vinegar. For me, this is not
a garnish, but a part of the dish. It complements the tart's lightness and
adds a touch of coldness. It's the yang to the yin of the clafoutis."

Asparagus Clafoutis
Time: 2 hours plus 1 hour chilling
Yield: 6 servings.

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter,
plus more for greasing pan
4 large eggs
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Dried beans or rice for weighting crust
22 jumbo asparagus stalks, peeled
6 ramps, washed and trimmed,
leaves and bulbs reserved,
or 4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Texas or Vidalia onions, trimmed and
very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
4 large very firm porcini or white mushrooms,
very thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 pound purslane leaves, optional
Hazelnut or walnut oil
Sherry vinegar
1. Cut 6 tablespoons butter into 6 pieces. Lightly beat 1 egg. Using a food processor with a metal blade, pulse flour, butter pieces and 1/8 teaspoon
salt until the mixture is crumbly. Add the beaten egg and pulse until the
dough forms moist curds. Shape dough into a 1/2-inch-thick disk. Wrap
in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Separate 1 egg, lightly beating the white
and reserving the yolk. Butter a 9 1/2-by-1-inch-high round fluted tart
pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough
1/8 inch thick. Fit into pan, without stretching it. Cover crust with alu-
minum foil or parchment paper, and weight with dried beans. Bake 15
minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees, remove foil and beans,
and bake 5 minutes. Brush the inside of the crust with the egg white,
bake 1 minute, then cool on a rack to room temperature.
3. While crust is cooling, prepare the filling. In a large pot over high
heat, combine 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt. Fill a bowl
with ice water and set aside. Starting from the tip, cut a 4-inch-
long piece from each asparagus stalk. Cut the next 3 inches of stalk
into 1/4-inch-thick slices; discard the rest. Boil spears 5 minutes,
then transfer to ice water. Add ramp bulbs or garlic to pot, and boil
5 minutes. Add asparagus slices and ramp leaves, boil 2 minutes,
and transfer to the ice water. Drain vegetables; set asparagus spears
aside separately. Squeeze excess moisture from ramp leaves, and
pat everything dry using several paper towels.
4. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and
add onions and rosemary. Sauté until softened but not colored, about
5 minutes. Add half the mushroom slices; season with salt and black
pepper to taste. Sauté 5 minutes; cool.
5. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. In the work bowl of a small food pro-
cessor or blender, combine ramps, ramp leaves and half the asparagus
slices. Pulse to chop. Add cream, 2 eggs, reserved egg yolk and salt,
black pepper and cayenne to taste. Process until smooth. Spread the
onion mixture on bottom of crust; scatter the remaining asparagus slices
over it. Pour in the egg mixture almost to the edge of the crust; discard
any excess. Arrange 5 asparagus spears in a pinwheel in the center of
the tart; sprinkle over the Parmesan. Bake until the custard is set in the
center, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack
for 10 minutes and cut into 6 wedges.
6. While clafoutis is cooling, prepare salad. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining mushroom slices, remaining asparagus spears and purslane.
Add hazelnut or walnut oil, sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, arrange a slice of clafoutis and some salad on individual
serving plates.

© The New York Times Company. Used with permission.

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