Spring’s favorite vegetable gets a French twist

Think of the classic French sauce gribiche as a doll-shaped egg salad. But instead of adding mayonnaise to hard-boiled eggs, the eggs are mashed with bold ingredients like capers, mustard and herbs until creamy.

Rather than a sandwich filling, it is typically used as a garnish for grilled vegetables, chicken or fish, and countless chefs have put their own stamp on it.

For our “Milk Street Tuesday Nights” book version, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we leave the capers out of the sauce and use the caper brine instead for extra flavor. The capers themselves are fried to create a crispy topping for the asparagus in sauce.

White balsamic vinegar instead of conventional wine vinegar adds a mild sweetness that balances out the other pungent ingredients. Finally, a dose of horseradish gives the sauce a welcome spiciness.

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The sauce pairs wonderfully with herbaceous asparagus, which we charred briefly in a hot skillet, then steamed in a few tablespoons of water until tender-crisp.

When buying asparagus, choose bundles with spears of similar size; we preferred the pencil-sized spears. And don’t be shy when wiping the capers. Lay them out on paper towels, then press them down with additional towels. The removal of moisture minimizes spattering when frying.

Asparagus with Gribiche Sauce and Fried Capers

Indemnity: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

  • 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
  • ¼ cup drained capers, patted dry, plus 2 tablespoons caper brine
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Kosher salt
  • 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, heat oil until shimmering. Add the capers and cook, stirring, until most of the bubbles are gone and the capers are crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a small plate lined with paper towel. Reserve the pan, leaving the oil in it.

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and shallot. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Cut hard-boiled eggs in half. Add the yolks to the shallots; finely chop the whites. To the yolks, add the mustard, horseradish, caper brine and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mash with a fork until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chopped egg whites, parsley, tarragon and 3 tablespoons of oil from the pan.

Return skillet to high heat until oil shimmers. Add asparagus and ½ tsp salt and cook, stirring once or twice, until light green with lightly charred spots, 2 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water, then cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until asparagus is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the asparagus and sprinkle with fried capers.

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