Almond Crusted Asparagus Rolls with Lemongrass Hollandaise

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.

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