Last month for my birthday Jeff gave me the Toro Bravo cookbook. It’s an awesome book with lots of background stories told by John Gorham, creator of Toro Bravo, Tasty N Sons, and so much more here. He’s had a pretty interesting life and I read it cover to cover, which I normally don’t do with a cookbook. But he’s funny and talks about all the challenges of starting and running a restaurant. Within the first year, the Toro Bravo restaurant had a flood, a fire, and a burglary! So much drama. Anyways, I came across this recipe and it sounded good, plus I was able to use some of my Preserved Lemons. I always get excited when I can use them, and this is a staple in the Toro Bravo kitchen. If you are ever in Portland, this restaurant is a must. The food is spectacular, so much flavor and depth. It’s Spanish tapas style servings shared for the table, it’s fun to get dish after dish after dish, and just when you think you’ve had enough, one more.
This recipe has a lot of bold flavors, with preserved lemon, olives, pepper and Jamón. What the heck is Jamón? It’s a cured Spanish ham, it has intense flavor and it’s used sparingly in this dish. It’s also very expensive and I had to really dig to find this in the store, it was about $10 for 2 ounces. If you can’t find it you could substitute with bacon or even pepperoni, Jamón has that same intense flavor. Oh, here it is on Amazon if you want to splurge but I don’t think it’s necessary for the dish.
The asparagus is blanched before grilling which I recommend doing. I’ve grilled asparagus without blanching and get mixed results. The tips burn while the stalk is barely cooked. By blanching you only need to grill for a few minutes to get them charred and your done.
Below is a half version of the recipe (a lot of the recipes are for huge portions!). This is a good side dish, or tapas dish for about 3-4 people. If you have a 6-8 just double up the recipe.
1 lb Asparagus
1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices Jamón, very finely julienned
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 Preserved lemon, pulp removed, skin julienned
1 1/2 Calabrian chilis (or a few Mama Lil’s peppers)
1/4 cup Marinated Olives
Start you grill.
Snap each asparagus spear at the spot where it stops being woody and gets soft. Discard the woody parts. Peel the skin away from the lower part of the remaining asparagus. You want to peel about 1 1/2” of the bottom of your asparagus.
Bring a gallon of water to a boil with 1/3 cup salt (this was for the original recipe which I’ve halved so you might not need this much water for 1 pound of asparagus). Once the water is boiling add the asparagus and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the size. Remove the asparagus to a plate and let it cool.
In a medium saute pan over med-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and Jamón and cook, stirring constantly until nicely crisped, about 1 minute. Strain and discard the oil and set the Jamón aside. (as the Jamón sits it gets crisper)
Dry the asparagus, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss to coat.
Grill the asparagus until nicely charred, 3-4 minutes, and remove to a plate and set aside.
Put the butter in a medium saute pan and let it just get to browning, then add the preserved lemon skin and give the pan a good couple shakes. One the lemon turns a little white, and is starting to get crispy, after about 1-2 minutes, add the chilies, then the olives and give the pan another good shake. Stir and allow the mix to bloom for about 20 seconds.
Add the Jamón, shake and top the asparagus with the mix. Serve immediately.