Crispy Asparagus with Fenugreek Aioli
Asparagus can be polarizing, lovers and haters – I happen to be a lover. I’m a huge fan of throwing asparagus in an oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper (and maybe a pat or two of butter…) and letting it roast to perfection while I’m making the rest of my meal. With the abundance of beautiful, thick and luscious asparagus in the greenmarket, I’ve found myself going beyond simple roasting and grilling techniques to figure out ways to single it out and highlight its taste at this time of year. This recipe is one lovely variation.
I know. The old adage that frying makes everything taste better is a bit overused, but, in this case, it is so true! This requires basic breading, but I like to spice up the flour for dredging a bit and use panko to form the crispy crust. The asparagus are then shallow-fried until they just yield under the bite.
Homemade aioli is the perfect accompaniment. It’s cheaper and easier to make your own mayo, and this one is scented with a bit of fenugreek powder. Fenugreek is one of the key spices in curry. I actually love it on its own, without the rest of the spices that comprise curry. It definitely has a bitter edge to it though, so a little goes a long way. Some garlic, a touch of mustard, and you have a deliciously creamy sauce. The crisp asparagus dipped into the garlicky aioli with hints of curry are the perfect summer side. Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
For the asparagus:
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
black pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups panko breadcrumbs
1 bunch of asparagus (approximately 1 lb)
oil for frying
For the fenugreek aioli:
2 or 3 garlic cloves
large pinch salt
1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp + a small pinch finely ground fenugreek
½ cup oil*
For the asparagus, using three trays or bowls, set up a breading station. Whisk together the flour, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper into one. Set up another with the beaten eggs, and a third with the panko. If you like, pulse the panko in the food processor to make it a bit finer before using.
Dredge the asparagus in the flour mixture, tapping off any excess. Dip into the beaten eggs, and, finally, coat with the panko. Transfer to a rack over a baking sheet and work in batches to bread all of the asparagus.
Heat ¼” to a ½” of oil in a large skillet to medium heat. You don’t want the oil to be too hot or the breading will brown (and burn) before the asparagus cooks through. I like to shallow-fry about 2 to 3 minutes per side on a medium heat to get that golden brown crust and perfectly-cooked asparagus.
Transfer back to the rack over the baking sheet and sprinkle with additional salt if you like. If you aren’t serving immediately, keep warm in a 200° F oven.
For the aioli, place the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until chopped as finely as possible. Conversely, you can do this by hand and chop the garlic finely and make a paste with the salt. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard and fenugreek and pulse or whisk until blended and uniform. Start the processor or continue whisking and add in the oil in a thin stream until all is completely incorporated.
Serve the asparagus warm with a side of the aioli.
*To save a bit, I like to use a combination of regular olive oil (extra virgin can turn bitter) and canola or other vegetable oil.