Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Asparagus with Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Walnuts

I ate a delicious, bacon-less version, of this on Friday and after consulting several alternative recipes, decided that bacon makes everything better. *Hint, it does.

This is a wonderfully simple recipe, built from 4 ingredients that even the most flustered, absent-minded person can remember while wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's (because I am distracted by every new ingredient and of course I need the new, seasonal, pumpkin butter croutons!). Grab a bunch of asparagus, some goat cheese (I chose a plain one but the herb rolled ones would be great too), walnut pieces, and bacon (thick cut is best and applewood smoked is even better).

First, put a wide skillet on high heat and let sit for a minute. Lay 3 slices of bacon in the pan, making sure that they can lay flat and do not overlap. Let these cook for 2-3 minutes (if they are burning, turn the heat down to medium-high), then flip over and let cook for another 2-3. Once done, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Using the same pan (now full of bacon fat aka liquid gold) turn the heat down to medium-high and place your asparagus in the skillet, making sure that they do not overlap. *My current pan is rather small and I could only find the standard, on-the-larger-side, asparagus, so I cut them in half to cook. Let the asparagus cook for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally. You will know it is done when all of the stalks have turned a beautiful, bright green and give a bit when pressed with your cooking tongs. Once cooked, remove from heat and pour bacon fat into a small container to harden. *Never pour hot bacon fat down your kitchen sink drain. Always wait for it to cool before you throw it out. Alternatively, you can re-heat it to cook something else in a few hours later (liquid gold people).

You can now assemble the dish if you like but I found the idea of uncooked walnut pieces a bit boring. To change things up, I put my walnuts in the still hot skillet, with the thin layer of bacon fat that remained after I poured the rest off and gave it a quick shake to coat all of the nuts. I let them sit in the pan over a medium-low heat for a minute or so to warm them up but was careful not to burn them (this brings out a rather bitter taste; if you see them smoking, lower the heat). Once done, remove from heat and let them sit in the pan while you prepare the bacon.

Turn your attention back to the now cooled bacon and chop finely. Plate the asparagus, take the goat cheese out of the fridge and liberally flake over the asparagus (I did this using two forks - one with a glob of cheese on it and the other breaking smaller bits off). Cover the dish with the chopped bacon and add walnuts. Salt and pepper according to taste and serve!

Two lessons I learned from my first go at this: walnuts should be more of sidekick to the dish and add more goat cheese and bacon than you think you need.

This served three people, so feel free to play with the proportions, add in different ingredients (cranberries maybe?) and report back!

- 1 bunch asparagus
- 3-6 slices thick cut (applewood smoked preferably) bacon
- 1 round goat cheese (plain or with herbs)
- 2 c walnut pieces
- dash salt
- dash pepper

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