FOOD&DRINK RECIPE BY THREE FORKS GRILL | PHOTOS BY JMK PHOTOGRAPHY
Asparagus in Montana is a tasty early summer crop that produces through June and into July. Terrapin Farms began growing asparagus a few years ago and now has a well-established crop for our annual harvest at the restaurant. Here are three variations for asparagus; one for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cast Iron Asparagus with Fried Eggs

Serves 2

Ingredients:

6-8 asparagus sprigs trimmed or peeled
4 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 tablespoon of fresh dill and parsley
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
3 anchovies, minced OR 1/4 cup bacon minced (for the non-Italians)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

1 Sauté 1/4 cup olive oil with onions and garlic for two minutes in a cast iron skillet.
2 Add anchovies (or bacon); they will disintegrate. Add bread crumbs and sauté for three to four minutes longer, or until all the oil is absorbed and the crumbs are browned and crispy.
3 Set aside bread crumbs and wipe out the cast iron skillet. Then heat the cast iron skillet to medium heat and sear the asparagus with salt and pepper until you get a nice char and is just cooked through, about four minutes.
4 Plate asparagus.
5 Fry eggs in the cast iron skillet; keep them yolky. This becomes your sauce.
6 Top asparagus with eggs.
7 Top the eggs with the parmesan, then add the bread crumb mixture and fresh herbs.
8 Garnish the plate with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Northwest Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

4 slices of high-quality sourdough bread
2 slices of your favorite cheese – cheddar, Fontina or Havarti
1/2 pound Dungeness crab
6 asparagus spears: peeled, sliced in half lengthwise
1 Fresno chili or jalapeno
1 teaspoon pickling spice

Instructions for the asparagus:

1 Quick pickle the asparagus by boiling 1/4 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of vinegar with 1 teaspoon of pickling spice (spice is optional).
2 Pour hot liquid over asparagus and chilies and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

For the sandwich:

1 Butter the sourdough bread slices.
2 Build your sandwich by alternating layers of cheese, crab and asparagus/chilies.
3 Pan fry until toasted with cheese oozing!

Northwest Grilled Cheese

Asparagus Risotto

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 cups of Arborio rice
Approximately 8 cups of chicken broth, heated to a low simmer
1 cup of dry white wine
18-20 asparagus spears: peeled and trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of parsley, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped pancetta or bacon
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup grated parmesan
1 cup cream

Instructions for the asparagus:

1 Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds and cool in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
2 Puree about one third of the asparagus (save most of the asparagus tips) 1/2 cup cream and a little water (if necessary) in a blender or food processor until smooth.

For the Risotto:

1 Heat a heavy bottomed, shallow 8-quart pan or pot to medium heat. Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil with onions, garlic, mushrooms and half of the parsley. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions are browned and the mushrooms have released most of its liquid.
2 Add the rice and stir to coat. Pour in the wine and reduce, stirring the entire time. Add hot broth in 1/2 cup portions, stirring and reducing until rice is just al dente.
3 At this point, add one more 1/2 cup portion of chicken stock, the asparagus tips, the rest of the cream and the asparagus puree.
4 Keep stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed.
5 Add the parmesan cheese and the remaining parsley.
6 Risotto should be runny and move on the plate, not dry or stiff.

Asparagus Risotto