Fried capers update classic French sauce for asparagus
Think of the classic French sauce gribiche as a dolled-up egg salad. But instead of adding mayonnaise to hard-cooked eggs, the eggs are mashed with bold ingredients like capers, mustard and herbs to a creamy consistency.
Rather than a sandwich filling, it typically is used as a lovely topping for grilled vegetables, chicken or fish, and countless chefs have put their own stamp on it.
For the version in our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights,” which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we leave the capers out of the sauce and instead used the caper brine for an additional punch of flavor. The capers themselves are fried to create a crisp garnish for the sauced asparagus.
White balsamic vinegar instead of conventional wine vinegar adds a mild sweetness that balances the other pungent ingredients. Finally, a dose of horseradish gives the sauce a welcome piquancy.
The sauce pairs wonderfully with grassy asparagus, which we char briefly in a hot skillet, then steam in a couple tablespoons of water until crisp-tender.
When buying asparagus, choose bunches with spears that are similar in size; we preferred pencil-size spears. And don’t be timid when patting the capers dry. Lay them out on paper towels, then press on them with additional towels. Removing the moisture minimizes splattering as they fry.
Start to finish: 25 minutes
6 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
¼ cup drained capers, patted dry, plus 2 tablespoons caper brine
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
⅓ cup packed fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the capers and cook, stirring, until most of the bubbling has subsided and the capers are crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a small paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the skillet, leaving the oil in it.
In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and shallot. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Halve the hard-cooked eggs. Add the yolks to the shallots; finely chop the whites. To the yolks, add the mustard, horseradish, caper brine and ½ teaspoon salt. Mash with a fork until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chopped egg whites, parsley, tarragon and 3 tablespoons of the oil from the skillet.
Return the skillet to high until the oil shimmers. Add the asparagus and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, tossing once or twice, until bright green with lightly charred spots, 2 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, then cover and reduce to medium. Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the asparagus and sprinkle with the fried capers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap