Vague food is, and has been, central to the fabric of American home cooking. Time crunch, disinterestedness, whatever: come evening, a gaze into kitchens would reveal arms rustling through cabinets, heating a pan or two, reaching for the nearest utensil, and stirring. Door-to-door-in this case, counter to table-in half an hour or less.
The family sitting down to dinner, staring at their plates with a combination of fear and confusion, is an iconic image, to wit, the mashed potato tower in Close Encounters. Actually, mashed potatoes are the perfect example of desperately hasty cooking: mush. But at least it comes (usually) from a vegetable.
Random ingredients, often canned, introduced to heat, produce, you guessed it, soft food. And so we get weird casseroles, soups, and egg dishes. Canned food is a staple of mystery food. However, cans are lonely: they were designed for ease and storage, not cooking i.e. combination with any other earthly product. Mixing anti-social items in a pan makes for a sad meal.
To free yourself from this awkward party is not to cook with an actual, clear dish in mind, but rather, with a few things that you know go together. You may not be able to name the dish: sandwich, soup, etc. But it will taste fine, which is all that matters. And if, in the process, it looks nice, that’s a bonus.
This one was the result of pantry scrambling, and I’m not sure what to call it. It’s kind of an appetizer, but had I found more asparagus and eggs in the fridge, I’d be comfortable calling it a salad. Either way, it looks nice, tastes nice, and is neither soft nor scary. I’d make it again, only as a big salad. For now, I don’t have a label. But I ate it with a smile.
Asparagus and Eggs
4 thin asparagus, trimmed of woody end
1 teaspoon grain mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil, carefully add the egg and cook 13 minutes. Near the end of cooking, add asparagus to pot as the egg cooks, and blanch 3-4 minutes, making sure they’re still crisp. Remove and dry on a paper towel. Slice in coins ¼ inch thick. Add to a bowl.
- Remove egg, and when cool, peel and halve. Season.
- Whisk mustard and oil in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper. Toss with asparagus, top with egg. Serve warm.