Fresh asparagus is one of my favorite signs of spring. This salad is a fabulous, no fuss way to enjoy it. Whip it up when you start cooking dinner, then let the flavors happily meld together while you finish preparing the rest of your meal.
Asparagus and bacon are a match made in heaven.
For this dish, I fried a little smokey Black Forest bacon, then caramelized bits of shallot in the sumptuous fat left behind. The asparagus took a quick spin in the pan (long enough to cook it throughâ€”but not make it mushy).
Crispy Black Forest bacon
The crispy bacon chips add texture, salt, and a nice crunch. A finishing squeeze of fresh lemon juice brightens up the asparagus and rounds out the flavors nicely.
I made this with a few pieces Black Forest bacon from Whole Foods (look for it in the butcher’s case). If you can’t find it, you can totally use regular bacon with great results. The Black Forest bacon is extra smokey and just a tiny bit sweet.
Black Forest bacon from Whole Foods
I won’t lie. This stuff is seriously good. I made it the other night when we had a friend over for dinner. It took a valiant act of hostessing to share.
A note on asparagus
When buying asparagus, look for stalks that are on the thinner side, with nice, tight heads.
You can totally leave the asparagus whole for a slightly fancier presentation. I cut my stalks in a few pieces.
Always trim off and discard the ends of the stalks, which can be woody.
Warm & Smokey Asparagus Salad
4 slices Black Forest bacon (or regular bacon)
1/2 a shallot, peeled and chopped
about 1 lb. asparagus, cut into pieces
freshly cracked black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
Serves 4 as a side dish
Crisp up the bacon
Line a medium-sized bowl with a few paper towels and set it aside.
Chop up the bacon.
Put it in a nonstick pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Spread it out, so that each piece can brown.
Cook like this for maybe 5 minutes.
Stir the bacon occasionally.
You want it to get nice and crisp.
When it looks about like this, it’s just about done.
Scoop the bacon out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Transfer it to your paper towel-lined bowl. Set it aside for a minute while you deal with the veggies.
Caramelize the shallots
Toss your chopped shallot into the bacon fat that remains in the pan. (If there’s a lot of it, drain a little off if you like.)
Keep the heat on medium-high, and saute the shallots for a few minutes. Give them a stir to coat in bacon fat.
You want them to become translucent…
…and then start to brown nicely.
Saute the asparagus
Grab your cut asparagus.
Add it to the pan with the shallots and bacon fat. Toss on a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Give it a good stir to coat the asparagus. Cook like this, stirring occasonally, for 3-4 minutes. Keep the heat on medium-high. The whole dish comes together pretty quickly.
After 3-4 minutes, the asparagus should be cooked throughâ€”or darn close to it. Poke it with a fork or the tip of a knife to check. Cook it to the tenderness you like. I prefer mine with a little bit of bite still left in it, so I usually yank it off the stove sooner, rather than later.
Finish the salad, serve, and enjoy!
When the asparagus is cooked to your liking, add the crisp bacon back to the pan.
Give it a stir to combine. Squeeze a half a lemon over the pan. (Yank out any lemon seeds you may see.) Give it all a stir to combine.
Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and set it aside on the counter. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Or, you know, serve it immediately if you can’t wait. Enjoy!