Golden Yolks

Warm Asparagus Salad with Brûléed Egg Yolk, Two Ways

miso sesame dressing
Though I tend to live by a relatively bland color palate, I’ve always had a thing for yellow. Not necessarily on my body (though I try to wear it and usually fail), but on other folks’ bodies. Not necessarily in or on my home (it doesn’t match my design aesthetic), but in or on other folks’ homes. I’ve never bought sunflowers, but I’ve stared at their faces for far too long at the farmers’ market. I don’t have yellow, but I search for it.

lemon vinaigrette

Well, I did once have yellow in my life and space. The summer before high school was the first time I got to paint my bedroom. My family had rented until that point so we couldn’t dirty the matte white walls. I didn’t seem to mind. When I was very young, one wall had some posters on it that brought color, though not too much; I was always sensible. But when it came time to paint those four walls, I chose yellow—well, a creamy, beige-y yellow that I, at that age, thought looked very “Colonial” next to the white crown moldings that my dad installed. I don’t remember what was on those walls when we moved in—wallpaper, perhaps—but when the room was painted, it was the lightest and brightest in the house.

crack egg

I think my affinity for yellow comes from my love of sunshine, as the beauty of a grey day is not always but most often lost on me. Or, more broadly, it’s a love of light and the desire to be immersed in it. Clarity is a great gift.

I prefer my light natural, of course—a burning sky, beams through the blinds, window marks on the walls. If natural light is unavailable, I still seek the unnatural; I’m never quite able to cook, clean, write, or even watch television in a dim room. I’m greedy for illumination.

asparagus

The egg yolk (never mind the white) just happens to be one of nature’s most brilliant foods: creamy, rich, nourishing. And it’s one of my favorite tastes; I’ve mentioned my love of egg yolk–enriched things before. But what really gripped me this time, as I took photos of this dish outside, with the sun peeking through a natural ceiling made from a tarp of unruly greenery, was the yolks’ friendly color. Perhaps my taste for egg yolks comes partially from an attraction to that shockingly yellow (or golden, most likely, if they’re good ones) hue. Its presence on any plate is welcomed, but here, against vibrant green, well it looked just like my surroundings: Bright yellow shining on a foundation of green. That’s what many of us see all summer long.

burnt yolks

Here, I brûléed egg yolks for the first time. I’d only seen them once (are they a widely-known thing, and I’m just behind the times?), as I was swiping my thumb through my instagram feed one day this spring. “That’s so smart,” I thought. And though a bunch of sweet applications I might explore came to mind, the bones of this particular dish, which originated during that 30-second brainstorming session, were the most seducing. I’d just have to wait until asparagus came in season. In both versions, a salty, punchy, almost brash dressing coats warm, briefly sautéed asparagus. A super-fresh egg yolk gets sprinkled with a coating of turbinado sugar and torched—to me, the darker the better. These dressings (a salty miso-based one and a bright lemony one) are pungent and low on oil, because, once you shatter the crust and burst the yolk with the side of your fork, a golden river of rich, fatty egg floods the dish, becoming part of the sauce and tempering the saltiness and acidity and providing that counterpoint and beautiful balance. There’s a bit of sweetness, smokiness, and bitterness added from the caramelized crust too.

mixed salad
Before hitting the schedule button on this post last night, I searched for the origin of that brilliant instagram shot. Why it didn’t occur to me to find it before I experimented with this dish, I’m not sure. But it turns out those yolks are from Inaki Aizpitarte, Chef of Le Chateaubriand in Paris, and there’s no accompanying instruction or other food, just egg yolks being torched on a cooling rack. And I can’t find any other brûléed yolks on the Internet besides the Chateaubriand one. But it is revealed that the chef cures the yolks first. Smart. That would make them a bit firmer and easier to handle. And delicious. But these brûléed plain yolks have all of the sexy textural pop of a sunny-side up one with a crunchy, glass-like shell on top. Seriously, the texture is most pleasing. This is sunny, sunny good-mood food.

asparagus salad

Sesame-Miso Asparagus with Pea Tendrils and Brûléed Egg Yolk

Don’t be alarmed if the parchment catches. As long as no burnt paper gets into the food, you’re OK. It may seem more seamless to place the yolks on the salads before caramelizing, and you can do this, but I found that it resulted in more prematurely broken yolks. Use the freshest, firmest egg yolks for this recipe. (It’s best to use eggs from a local farm, but a high-quality semi-local store-bought egg yolk is fine and certainly won’t get you sick. In Massachusetts, The Country Hen or Pete & Gerry Heritage Breed eggs are quite reliable.)

Serves 2 for an appetizer or light lunch

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
134 teaspoons white miso
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
Small pinch red pepper flakes
12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed
2 medium or large egg yolks
Turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Pea tendrils

1. Whisk rice vinegar, miso, sesame oil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper flakes in large bowl until smooth.

2. Lightly oil two 2-inch square pieces of parchment paper. Carefully place each yolk on parchment square. Place squares on small plate and refrigerate while cooking asparagus.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add asparagus and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally (you want to give them a chance to brown) until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your asparagus). Transfer asparagus to bowl with miso mixture and toss to coat.

4. Remove yolks from refrigerator. Using ¼-teaspoon measure, sprinkle surface of egg yolks evenly with sugar and caramelize to your desired color using ignited butane torch (keep flame about 1 inch from egg yolk).

5. Divide asparagus evenly between 2 plates, creating a small pocket in the center of the asparagus. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Carefully slide yolk onto asparagus. Garnish with pea tendrils, if using.

Lemony Asparagus with Brûléed Egg Yolk, Fried Capers, and Pecorino

Don’t be alarmed if the parchment catches. As long as no burnt paper gets into the food, you’re OK. It may seem more seamless to place the yolks on the salads before caramelizing, and you can do this, but I found that it resulted in more prematurely broken yolks. Use the freshest, firmest egg yolks for this recipe. (It’s best to use eggs from a local farm, but a high-quality semi-local store-bought egg yolk is fine and certainly won’t get you sick. In Massachusetts, The Country Hen or Pete & Gerry Heritage Breed eggs are quite reliable.)

Serves 2 for an appetizer or light lunch

Vegetable oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons minced garlic scapes
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed
2 medium or large egg yolks
Turbinado sugar
Shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Heat ½ inch oil in heavy small saucepan to 350 degrees. Add capers and cook, stirring frequently, until crispy and lightly browned. Transfer capers to paper-towel lined plate and let drain for 1 minute. Remove paper towel and place capers on plate; set aside.

2. Whisk lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic scapes, and mustard in large bowl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Lightly oil two 2-inch square pieces of parchment paper. Carefully place each yolk on parchment square. Place squares on small plate and refrigerate while cooking asparagus.

4. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Add asparagus and salt and ground pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally (you want to give them a chance to brown) until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your asparagus). Transfer asparagus to bowl with lemon mixture and toss to coat.

5. Remove yolks from refrigerator. Using ¼-teaspoon measure, sprinkle surface of egg yolks evenly with sugar and caramelize to your desired color using ignited butane torch (keep flame about 1 inch from egg yolk).

6. Divide asparagus evenly between 2 plates, creating a small pocket in the center of the asparagus. Sprinkle with fried capers. Carefully slide yolk onto asparagus. Garnish with Pecorino and serve.

15 responses

  1. These are the first bruleed yolks I’ve ever seen or heard of. I love the idea! And the version with the capers sounds right up my alley. I tried to paint our bathroom yellow because it was dark when we moved into our house… It didn’t work out and now it’s green. But it was an attempt!

    • It doesn’t get “warm,” but it definitely loses its chill, so it’s not like the raw yolk on top of steak tartare. Also, the longer you keep the yolk on the salad before breaking it, the warmer it will get because it will also get heat from the warm salad below. If you hold the torch farther away and brûlée for longer, you might be able to heat the yolk more (I can’t say for sure, as I didn’t try this). It’s a fun alternative to a poached egg!

  2. Brilliant! I’ve never though of such a thing. Though I don’t know how I could possibly choose between the salads.

    One day a year or so ago I realized that over about a decade, without ever noticing, I had slowly changed almost everything in my house and office to various shades of yellow! It must have been that creamy yellow bedroom I, too, had when I first got to choose somewhere in middle school days. Or maybe I was just searching for sunshine.

    • I love cured yolks and have eaten them shaved on things—delicious! But they’re not for the impatient (me). Hopefully I’ll give them a shot at home one day.

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