I got to the JFX market a little late on Sunday, but I was still able to get my hands on some great spring produce (although they still don’t have too much of it – it’s mostly flowering plants and food vendors). In addition to a few pounds of asparagus (which I love), I picked up lots of mint and pea shoots, which I’ve never before seen at the market.
Pea shoots are the tops of pea plants, and they taste exactly like you would expect them to: like peas. They’re currently available at farmers markets, but you can also get them at Chinese markets (I’ve definitely seen them in Chinatown in Manhattan). Make sure the ones you buy are young; mature shoots are tough and stringy and are not fun to eat. About a third of the shoots I bought from the market were advanced in age and were barely eatable even after being cooked – they were that stringy.
The idea for this dish came to me when I was thinking about one that I had eaten at the Charleston a few weeks ago – a garlic flan with wild mushrooms and fava beans. I took that idea and completely spring-ified it by changing the flan to one that is asparagus-based and adding a mint-pea puree and the aforementioned pea shoots. It’s the greenest thing I’ve ever made and I think it perfectly captures the essence of spring.
Asparagus Flan with Mint-Pea Puree and Wilted Pea Shoots
(makes 4 servings)
(makes 4 servings)
For the flan:
1 lb asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1” pieces
½ cup milk (2% or whole)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
For the mint-pea puree:
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk
2 tightly packed tablespoons of mint leaves
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the wilted pea shoots:
1 teaspoon butter
½ pound pea shoots
Pinch of salt
Make the flan:
Set an oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease four 6-ounce custard cups with canola oil spray or butter and set them aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set a steamer on top of the pot, add the asparagus, and cover the pot. Steam the asparagus until they are very tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a blender or food processor. Add the milk, cream, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper and puree well until the mixture is very smooth. Add the eggs and puree just until the eggs are fully incorporated.
Evenly divide the mixture between the prepared custard cups. Place the filled cups into a baking dish or pan at least 8” x 8”, then pour the hot water from the pot in which the asparagus was steamed so that it reaches halfway up the custard cups.
Bake the flans until they are just set in the center, about 35 minutes. Remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack for 5minutes.
While the flans are baking, make the mint-pea puree:
Put the peas and milk into a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Tear half of the mint leaves in half and add them to the pot. When the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, add the remaining mint leaves, salt, and lemon juice, and puree until very smooth.
Make the wilted pea shoots:
Add the butter to a large sauté pan set over medium heat. While the butter is melting, rinse the pea shoots (no need to dry them). Add the pea shoots to the pan and cook them for 30 seconds, tossing occasionally. Cover the pan and cook the pea shoots, shaking the pan occasionally, until the pea shoots are wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the salt, and toss to combine.
Run a sharp knife around the edge of each flan. Place a serving plate on top of the custard cup and invert the cup onto the plate – the flan should pop right out. Spoon ¼ of the mint-pea puree around each flan, and surround the puree with ¼ of the wilted pea shoots.