This year the asparagus has been extra early, and I'm really enjoying it! There are so many things you can do with asparagus, but this simple, lemony pasta is one of my favorites. A few years ago, I decided I wanted a creamy lemon sauce to use with pasta and asparagus, and after a little experimentation, this is what I came up with. It's a bit like a very light hollandaise, but much more fool proof to make.
As you might guess from the title, I usually make this with just asparagus and pasta, because at this time of year, who needs anything else? On the other hand, the addition of some chopped chicken or a few sauted scallops, will make a complete meal for a meat eater as well, so I'm including those possibilities too. With regard to herbs, you can just add salt or pepper, or a little tarragon is always good with asparagus. If you are feeling quite trendy, replace the tarragon with some lavender for a little different flavor. I use fresh, since I grow both, but dried will work fine as well. Use half as much if you use dried. I also like to add chives at this time of year, when they are freshly sprouting in my garden.
Pasta and Asparagus with Lemon Sauce (with optional Chicken or Scallops)
2 egg yolks
2 TB butter
~ 3TB lemon juice (usually this is 1/2 of a juicy thin skinned lemon, or a whole thick skinned one)
3/4 cup cream
1 TB chopped fresh chives (optional)
1 TB chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
1 TB chopped fresh lavender (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 pound fresh asparagus
1 chicken breast OR 1/2 pound bay scallops - optional
2TB extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 package linguini
ends of the asparagus, cut into two or three inch long pieces, and place
with 1/4 cup water in a covered microwave dish, and set aside.
Meat Option: Saute the the chicken breast or the scallops in the olive oil. If you are using the chicken, chop it into bite size pieces. Set aside in a covered dish to stay warm.
In a saucepan, beat the egg yolks with a wooden spoon or birch whisk, then add the lemon juice and stir well. Add the butter, and turn on the lowest possible heat then stir continuously until the butter melts. Add the cream and either the lavender or the tarragon and chives if you are adding herbs. Continue to stir while you allow the creamy sauce to warm up. Do not let it boil, but allow it to cook slowly and thicken a bit as it warms up. If it is too thick you can add more cream, or very carefully, some milk or half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile boil a pot of water for the
pasta, and when your butter for the sauce is just melted, toss it in and cook as you like it. Have the water boiling, or it will take longer than the sauce. This is not a real big problem, since this is an unfussy sauce, and you can let it sit a little while and rewarm gently if you need to.
Just before the sauce and pasta are done, put your asparagus in the microwave for 3-4 minutes to steam (just long enough so that the pieces are cooked but still a big crunchy). Drain the asparagus and the pasta, and stir them together with the sauce, and the chicken or scallops if you are using them, in a warm bowl. Snip a few extra chives over the top if you like for looks. Serve to great acclaim! DeeDee