This is surely one of the best ways to enjoy asparagus - lightly cooked and served with a punchy vinaigrette. Here the asparagus are blanched and then sautéed, but grilling them on the barbecue is also a good way to go. Using his own free-range pigs, chef and friend George Smith from Middle River makes amazing pancetta, bacon, and sausages. He was kind enough to share samples. I've used some of his pancetta to add a nice peppery note to the vinaigrette. Alternatively, you could try it with smoked bacon.
• 1 bunch asparagus, cleaned • 4 slices of pancetta, chopped • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar • 1 tablespoon sugar • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard • 1/3 cup olive, grapeseed or sunflower oil (or a mix) • sea salt + groud black pepper • chive blossoms for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water with a big pinch of salt to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice cold water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 30-60 seconds, depending on the size. Fish out the asparagus and drop in the cold water bath. Let cool for a minute and remove from the water.
In a skillet, cook the pancetta for a few minutes until crisp. Set aside, but keep the fat in the pan. In a shallow bowl, add half of the pancetta, the vinegar, sugar, mustard, oil. Blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Taste and season with salt. Set aside.
In the same skillet you've used to cook the pancetta, heat the fat and and add the blanched asparagus. Sauté until reheated. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with the vinaigrette poured over. Top with the remaining pancetta and some chive blossoms.