Almond Crusted Asparagus Rolls with Lemongrass Hollandaise
It is time again for The Royal Foodie Joust created by Jenn, The Leftover Queen. The Joust is a monthly cooking contest where the winner picks three ingredients to use in the next month's Joust. Sort of like Iron Chef, with more time, but more ingredients. It's a lot of fun, check it out! I had to sit out the last couple Jousts. Holidays got in the way, then real-life got a little busy, but I'm glad to submit an entry this month!
The ingredients, selected by Natasha of 5 Star Foodie are: * Asparagus * Lemongrass * Almonds
Christey and I batted around some ideas, and I finally came up with a sushi inside-out roll with asparagus, fresh blue crab, and bacon on the inside, rolled in crushed toasted almonds, and covered with a hollandaise made from a wine-lemongrass infusion rather than traditional lemon juice.
I started, as most good things do, with bacon.
I also added a tablespoon of chopped lemongrass to 1/2 cup of white wine, and heated it below a simmer, to infuse that peppery lemonness. I tried like mad to find fresh lemongrass, including produce markets and three Asian groceries, but frozen pre-chopped was all I could find.
After the bacon was plated, I heated a pan to medium and added about 3/4 cup sliced almonds directly to the pan. I wanted to toast the almonds, but they have a habit of burning to a crisp the instant your back is turned (they're sneaky that way). So, constant attention and flipping, and eventually the almonds turned golden and got wonderfully crispy.
I was already steaming sushi rice in the background with the exhaustive step-by-step guide on the package. 1 cup uncooked, Rinse, rinse, rinse, water clear, strain and wait, simmer, boil, listen for crackle, steam, steam, steam. When the rice was done (and, admittedly, really good), I added a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar, stirred it in, and let it steam some more.
After cutting and peeling the ends a bit, I blanched some asparagus in salted, boiling water for about 4-5 minutes, until the asparagus was crunchy, yet cooked, just starting to bend a bit. Into icewater they went, to shock them into hibernation.
My almonds were cool, so I put them into a ziplock and very gently beat them into smithereens with a meat tenderizer. I wanted bigger than a bread crumb, and odd-shaped, but I didn't want any whole or half-slices.
On to the rolling!
I didn't have a traditional rolling mat, but a placemat is good enough. I broke a sheet of nori in half, put it shiny-side down, wet my hands in a water/vinegar mixture, and spread rice over the nori evenly.
I put cling-wrap over the top, pressed it down, then flipped the nori/rice. On one edge, I added bacon, asparagus, and blue crab.
Rolling is an art, and I'm not the best in the world at it, but here's the idea. I rolled the first bit as tightly as I could against itself, then pulled some of the cling-wrap away (so it doesn't get rolled into the roll.
From there I rolled a little more, then pulled the cling wrap some more. At the end, I pressed the roll into a semi-squareish shape.
I removed the cling-wrap completely, then rolled the roll in the toasted almonds to coat.
It's good to coat your hands often with the water-vinegar mixture, or the rice will attach itself to your fingertips.
Last is the lemongrass hollandaise. I strained about a tablespoon of liquid into a pan and added two egg yolks.
The yolks were thoroughly mixed with the lemongrass and whisked over a pan of simmering water. There is something magical in a sabayon -- the point where whisked eggs turns from a dark yellow, liquidy mess into a pale-yellow, thick, fluffy semi-liquid. Too much heat, and the yolks coagulate into scrambled yolks. Too little, and the hollandaise will be runny and limp. It's a tricky window, but it beats the pants off that packet of powder.
Once the yolks are perfect, I added 3/4 stick of butter, a pat at a time, with just enough heat to melt the butter.
When the butter had melted, I took a wet knife and quickly cut and arranged the rolls on a plate and spooned hollandaise over the top.
Rice 1 cup sushi rice 1 cup + 3 tbsp water 1 tbsp seasoned vinegar
Filling: 2 sheets nori, broken in half 3 (or more) spears asparagus, blanched 3 slices bacon, cooked 3 tbsp blue crab meat (optional)
Hollandaise: 1/2 cup white wine 1 tbsp chopped lemongrass 2 egg yolks 3/4 stick butter, cut into tbsp slices
Deconstruction: I happened to have had my blue-crab trap out the last couple days and got a couple good-sized crabs. When wondering what to do with them, it made sense to add the meat to the asparagus rolls. It's sort of like a California roll, except I used asparagus and blue crab instead of cukes and imitation crab leg. I also wanted bacon and hollandaise because both pair well with asparagus, and the almond coating made it more than just a garnish -- there was some great texture with the softer ingredients.
This tasted really good. If I have any regret, I should have either added more chopped lemongrass, or reduced the liquid a little more. It was a great, tasty hollandaise, but I was hoping for more of a lemongrass punch. I got a bit of the citrus, but not enough, nor the spiciness. The almonds were perfect.