Here’s a special dish for an elegant spring brunch. Most of it can be prepared ahead of time, then reheated and assembled at the last minute.
The base is artisanal toast brushed with olive oil and topped with roasted asparagus. The asparagus can be prepped and pre-roasted, then warmed in the oven before serving. The bearnaise can be prepped just short of stirring in the fresh tarragon and kept covered and chilled. You can poach your eggs as much as a day ahead.
The tricky part is breading the eggs without breaking the yolks. You need to move slowly and delicately when transporting them, using a large slotted spoon. Coat the eggs by gently lifting up the edges of the parchment paper, which causes the eggs to roll over in the flour and bread crumbs. Don’t turn the eggs in the oil— they’ll brown on both sides without it.
Roasted Asparagus Toasts With Poached Fried Eggs, Bernaise
Start to finish: 1½ hours
16 thick asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 slices artisanal bread, toasted and brushed with extra-virgin olive oil
For the bearnaise:
¼ cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese
¼ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
For the eggs:
5 large eggs
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 425 F. On rimmed sheet pan toss asparagus with oil. Salt and pepper to taste and roast until just tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Remove pan and set aside. Reduce oven to 350 F.
In small saucepan, combine shallot, vinegar, wine, dried tarragon and hefty pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 3-4 minutes until liquid reduces to about 1 tablespoon. Add Neufchatel a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in milk, fresh tarragon, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In deep, straight-sided skillet, add 2 inches water and bring to a boil. Break an egg into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Tilt the egg around and bang the strainer a few times to let the loose egg white fall through. Repeat with 3 more eggs and transfer to individual ramekins or small bowls. When water boils, turn off burner, gently slide eggs into the water and cover pan. Cook eggs in the residual heat for 1½ to 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer eggs to bowl of ice and water to cool for 5 minutes, then to a plate lined with paper towels.
Reheat asparagus. Warm bearnaise on the stove.
In large, deep saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 365 F. In shallow bowl, beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water. Spread flour on parchment. Spread bread crumbs on second piece of parchment and toss with salt. Carefully coat each egg with the flour, dip in beaten egg and coat with crumbs. Working in two batches, transfer eggs with slotted spoon to oil and fry 15-20 seconds or until golden. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.
To serve: Place top toast with asparagus, spoon bearnaise over, and top with egg.