Ron Eyester, kicked off the spring chef series at the Morningside Farmer’s Market this Saturday. Since he is a firm believer in creating meals inspired by fresh local and seasonal ingredients, he selected tender asparagus as the feature vegetable. He created a citrus vinaigrette to showcase the asparagus and accented the salad with toasted pecans, crispy capers, leeks, chopped egg and baby shrimp. You can also use smoked salmon, lump crab, lobster or chicken instead of shrimp.
The vinaigrette can be made ahead of time. You can even double the recipe, divide into two batches, and add buttermilk to one for a new twist and toss in a mixed green salad topped with some protein like roasted chicken. Most vinaigrettes are a 2 parts oil to 1 part acid (orange juice, balsamic vinegar, etc). For this recipes, Chef Eyester choose a 1.5 part olive oil to 1 part acid to make the earthy flavor in the asparagus pop. He added fresh garlic, honey to sweeten, sea salt, black pepper and orange zest.
Citrus zest can make all the difference in your dishes. Zest adds a homemade zing as well as has many health benefits. Research has shown that the bioflavonoids in the zest of limes, lemons, oranges and grapefruits can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve brain health as well as prevent potential cell damage leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Read the links below for more details on bioflavonoid health benefits.
There is one more thing I want to share since we all were in stitches after hearing it. I cannot do it justice but is too funny not to mention. Ron Eyester frankly told us about the drama pertaining to the breakfast fried chicken sandwich he created for his staff which was so loved he placed it on the menu and called The Big Nasty. He said there is little more gratifying than having a proper 50 year old lady say ” I will have the Big Nasty, please.”
Since this sandwich was so well received, many people started hearing about it and one day Ron received a cease and desist letter from McAlister’s Deli. McAlister had trademarked the name the Big Nasty as well as the New Yorker (how that is possible I do not know) and demanded Rosebud remove the Big Nasty from their menu. Ron, aka @theangrychef, was livid and contacted his attorney who correctly advised him not to fight it and change the name. So, Ron took his fight to Twitter, posted the cease and desist letter, critiqued McAlister’s menu, and gained a lot of support and press. Even PR firms around the country discussed the story at meetings on how the little guy can fight back with social media. Ron did end up changing the name from The Big Nasty to The Nasty McAlister and trademarked it. Classic!
1) Steam Asparagus and Shrimp- Wash and snap the bottoms off the asparagus. Steam or boil until tender and bright green. Steam the peeled and deveined shrimp until pink, about 3 minutes. Note: Rinse the asparagus and shrimp in cold water or place in an ice bath to prevent them from continuing to cook.
2) Make the Citrus Vinaigrette- Add the Dijon mustard, Champagne vinegar or another vinegar you have at home, a drizzle of honey, pinch of fresh garlic, pinch of sea salt (recommend Back to Organic Margarita or Lemon Twist Himalayan Pink Salt) and black pepper to a bowl. Zest an organic orange over the bowl and juice the orange removing any seeds. Whisk together. Now SLOWLY pour olive oil (Ron recommends Georgia Olive Farms) over the mixture and whisk until the dressing binds and thickens to your desired consistency. Or, just follow the measurements exactly if learning how to make a dressing. Taste to see if you want more salt or sweetener. Notes: You need to use a smooth Dijon mustard to bind the vinaigrette. Grain mustard can be overwhelming. You can find very good vinegars at Oli + Ve.
3) Toast the Pecans- Use a pan with a large surface area and toast the chopped pecans over medium heat stirring or tossing occasionally. Watch closely or you may have some casualties since they burn quickly. You will know they are toasted when the fragrant oils are released so stay close to the nuts.
4) How to make Crispy Capers- This is optional but recommended for a little crunch. Drain the brine off the capers and place on a plate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Pour vegetable oil into pan and heat. Place in a stainless china cap fine mesh strainer and gently submerge in hot oil for 1 and a half minutes, shake off the oil, and then remove. Place on a towel or parchment paper. The capers will crisp up after 5 minutes.
5) Make the Salad- Toss the asparagus in the dressing, add the chopped leeks, shrimp, and toasted nuts. If using whole asparagus stalks for a nice presentations, gently toss to keep tips intact. Plate the salad and add the chopped egg over the top. Serve immediately. Do not make ahead or the asparagus may brown.
Recipe from Ron Eyester, chef and owner of Rosebud, Family Dog, Timone’s
Photographs from Tom Brodnax