Two for one chicken and asparagus

When you hen you spot two bunches of asparagus for less than a euro each, well, it’d be rude not to!

I’ve boiled, sautéed and roasted asparagus aplenty, boiling being my least favourite method (goes soggy and overdone in a heartbeat) and roasting coming out on top (keeps a bite as well as all the flavour and lovely green colour).

Another book that I love, but have never cooked from, is Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1. One of his recipes that, in true Slater style is hardly even a recipe, involves a hot grill, some crispy lardons and Parmesan cheese.

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Lardons are ultimately tiny chunks of streaky bacon, hopefully with a nice balance of meat and fat. Given that packs of lardons are hard to come by and often ridiculously expensive considering they’re rasher chunks, I usually just buy some good streaky rashers and do a little chopping myself. Smoked dry cure is the best, both for flavour and water content.

 

The magic trick with lardons is to start them on a mid heat, then crank it up for just a little at the end to get them crispy. I’m convinced that people who love back bacon, but avoid streaky, do it because it’s not cooked properly. Squidgy, undercooked fat is not a happy thing to eat. It’s greasy and chewy instead of melting and delicious.

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Unless you’re picking it in your garden and bringing it straight to the kitchen, you’ll usually lose a third to a half of your stem, depending on how long it has been sitting around, and at what temperature.

Bend one stem until it breaks naturally – that’s your point for cutting the rest. The fresher, the springier. I drained the fat off the pan from the lardons, and used that to roast the asparagus in, for about 15 minutes. Then crispy bacon went over the top, with a chunk of grated Parmesan, and under a hot grill for a few minutes til everything’s bubbling.

Chicken is a classic meat to serve with asparagus. Back to Ballymaloe for a simple recipe – marinating chicken breasts in olive oil and rosemary before chargrilling. While I do have a beautiful slab of cast iron grill ( it’s a Le Creuset one that stretches across two gas burners, and I adore it) currently I’m stuck with a halogen hob, which is why I pan fried the chicken on a super hot pan – about five minutes in total cooking time – using some of the marinade oil.

I boiled some Charlotte potatoes as well, which I tossed with some butter and salt. They’re the first of the season and I couldn’t resist them.

 

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The combination worked really well together, and was actually pretty simple despite having a few things on the go at once. While I added lemon zest to the chicken marinade (it was recommended to serve with lemon butter, but I thought it would be overkill given my sides) I’d definitely add a clove of garlic next time. It was my instinct as soon as I read the recipe, but in the interests of the project and not changing every recipe I cook from the books, I left it without.

The asparagus would also be amazing for lunch with just a perfectly poached egg on top. Maybe next time.

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