Super Spargel

10 May

I’m having a lot of trouble with random ladies lately.

The Building That Put The Times In Times Square

Last night on my way home I had my subway fare stolen. The MetroCard of the lady in front of me had expired, but I didn’t realize it until I had already swiped and she just breezed through on my fare. She finally came back and swiped me through on her other MetroCard, but it was too late, I’d already missed the express train.

Why am I telling you this? Because by missing the express I then had to take The Slow Train To Cleveland home.

Walking For A Cause

Those not living in New York might not know this, but each subway line actually runs on a schedule. This means that if your routine is regular enough it’s possible to begin “knowing” the personalities of the men and women that drive the trains.

Back when I lived on the F line there was a Caribbean guy who had the most wonderful accent. It was proper and British, yet dreamy and exotic. I loved catching his train. On the weekends there’s a guy that runs an R train who sounds like he should be a newsreader on the radio, or doing the voice-over for some crazy computer that’s about to takeover the world. I’ve never heard someone with such precise diction in my life.

Someday I'll Tackle One Of Their Sandwiches

Then there’s the humorous and sassy drivers. They’ll offer observations, crack jokes, sing little songs, impart neighborhood wisdom and insult people that are keeping the train from staying on schedule. One of the most glorious New York experiences is to be amongst a car-full of people who have all been forced to laugh by a subway conductor. It’s an experience that’s become more and more rare as the iPod has continued it’s tramp towards inevitable world domination.

These are the good drivers. Fast, efficient, capable of disseminating knowledge.

And then there’s The Slow Train To Cleveland (TSTTC).

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? You Walk There

Have you ever seen Family Guy? You know Peter’s friend Cleveland, who talks all slow and low and mumbly? Yeah, I think they’ve got him running this one R train that departs Union Square around 6.40pm these days. And he drives as unagressively as he talks. It’s frustrating. What should be a 40 minute train ride turns into a nearly hour long epic journey under his tutelage. 20 minutes may not sound like much, but when you’ve managed to get out of work on time and just want to get home and cook dinner, it feels like an eternity. That’s the hell the fare-swiper consigned me to last night.


TSTTC first came to my attention last Friday night. It’s rare indeed when I get to leave the office before 7.30 on a Friday, so I was extremely excited. The boy had initially wanted to take me out for my birthday, but since I was getting up very early the next morning to walk for a cause (and the only way you will ever catch me in Times Square), I suggested that we stay in and relax instead. The problem is, it’s hard to relax when you’ve just been tortured by TSTTC.

After a few minutes of freaking out, exhorting the gods to obliterate TSTTC from the face of the earth and talking at very high speed, I finally calmed down. The prospect of asparagus can do that.

Central Park

How wonderful and strange is asparagus? My mom had a patch of it in her garden when I was a kid. When their strange snakey stalks would finally break through the rough, wintered earth we knew Spring was finally, actually here. We would eat them for every dinner for as long as they were around.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Truffled Egg, Polenta

I love the tops the most, especially when drenched in butter and lemon. And I love them puréed into risottos and soups. And I love them whole, pan roasted with lots of garlic and tomatoes, served alongside polenta with a truffle-scented fried egg on top.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Truffled Egg, Polenta

It was easy as chips to make and brought me down from my TSTTC-induced pique, plus it was hearty enough to get me through a 5k walk (yeah, I know that’s only 3 miles or so, don’t worry, my friend and I tacked on at least another 3 afterwards).

So, R trainers, beware of TSTTC and fare-swiping ladies.

Be prepared. Keep calm and carry on. Asparagus will not always be there to save the day!

Head below the jump for Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Truffled Eggs.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Truffled Eggs

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 10-15 minutes

  • 1 bunch Asparagus, washed, ends snapped off
  • 4-6 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 tomatoes, washed and cut into chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • Truffle Salt

Place a heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and the garlic. Allow to sizzle for a few minutes and add the asparagus. Coat in the oil as best you can. Allow to cook a few minutes then add the tomatoes and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until you can hear the tomatoes boiling. Uncover and cook for a minute or two to concentrate the tomato juices.

Turn off the heat. Portion the asparagus spears and sauce onto two plates. Carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel and return to the stove. Add another glug of olive oil or a bit of butter to the pan. Crack two eggs into the pan and dust each one lightly with truffle salt. Cook over medium/medium-low flame. Place one egg on top of each serving of asparagus alongside a mound of polenta. Enjoy!


17 Responses to “Super Spargel”

  1. Jennywenny May 10, 2007 at 9:24 am #

    What beautiful photos!! I feel your pain on the train, I used to live in Bishops Stortford in england and if I got the fast train from london it was about 30 mins and the slow train was 1 hour 20 or something. AAAAGH!!!

  2. jessica May 10, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    i take the r train and have heard that radio-announcer-voiced guy!

    and your eggs, asparagus, polenta dish looks delicious. i have truffle oil but thanks to you am now going to have to get truffle salt.

  3. s'kat May 10, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    That would be such a major pain! I’m glad you had something to look forward to at the end of your long journey.

  4. Terry B May 10, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    Another great post, Ann. When I’m in New York, I take the subway EVERYwhere. An excellent system, TSTTC notwithstanding. The food looks fabulous, of course. But like Jessica, I’ve now discovered that truffle oil is not enough. I’m curious about the choice of cast iron, though—don’t the tomatoes cause an acidic reaction with it?

  5. ann May 10, 2007 at 1:37 pm #

    TerryB — whoa, I had no idea about tomatoes and cast iron! How nutsy! I just went off and looked it up and you’re right, not the best choice. I just kinda went with what was resting on top of my stove which is my Great Grandmother’s perfectly seasoned skillet. Cleanup was fine, and it’s still perfectly seasoned, so maybe the cooking time wasn’t enough to hurt it.

  6. Andrea May 10, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    Wait–I’m not allowed to use tomatoes in my cast iron pan? I had no idea!
    Anyway — I think it’s amusing that you love the asparagus tops. I’m not a picky eater by any means but I much prefer the stalks and can’t imagine anyone enjoying the tops!
    I have some truffle salt I’ve never used.. I’m going to give it a try on some asparagus now!
    (Also.. did you see the article in last week’s NYT food section about asparagus risotto?)

  7. Terry B May 10, 2007 at 5:11 pm #

    It’s not that you CAN’T use cast iron with acidic things like tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine. But such things can apparently react with the pan and create bad flavors. But plenty of people DO cook acidic things in cast iron. It probably is the time thing, as you suggested, Ann. I’m personally not a big fan of cast iron—blasphemy, I know—so I avoid the issue altogether.

  8. ann May 10, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    Jennywenny — ouch! That’s a huge difference! Nice that we can sympathize across the Atlantic. Thanks for stopping by!

    Jessica — The truffle salt is so much more, actually, truffley, than truffle oil. I hope you like it! And don’t you just love that guy? the boy and I sit there and just marvel at him.

    s’kat — if asparagus isn’t there, there’s always the boy to comfort me!

    Andrea — I did see that thing with Batali and Bittman. It was also on Bittman’s pbs show. That’s hilarious about the stalks. Maybe I should meet you at the greenmarket and we can split a bunch ;-)

    TerryB — I actually know exactly what you mean about cast iron. it was only recently that I pulled the ole skillet out for something. Until then I hadn’t used it in years, after an old roommate tried to make fried rice in it and totally mucked it up. But I gave it a good re-seasoning and now I’m addicted to using it again. Thanks for the info on that though, somehow that had never registered on my radar!

  9. lobstersquad May 11, 2007 at 2:49 am #

    our metro is excellent and efficient and clean and everything it should be, except cool like yours. and our conductors are locked away in their little cabins, so even if they were witty, we wouldn´t know.

  10. Mary May 11, 2007 at 9:28 am #

    It may be that the path to get it was long, but I can think of no better dinner than the one in the pictures up top. I just love anything with asparagus, and fried egg with runny yolk is my idea of perfect. Will you marry me?

    P.S. I’ll be working on the harissa recipe; it’s not ready for it’s coming out party yet.

  11. izzy's mama May 12, 2007 at 9:05 am #

    Hmmm. Truffle salt. I have never used that might this might just be the time to get some. As for cast iron, I always cook tomatoes in mine, to no ill effect and it remains perfectly seasoned. Cast iron pans are great because they actually impart of a bit of iron into your food and many people are lacking in that. It is great for other reasons as well. I love my large and small pans.

  12. Amanda May 12, 2007 at 9:54 am #

    I LOVE when I catch this one A train (my schedule totally varies, so I count myself very lucky when this happens): The driver also has a very calming voice, just like The Quiet Storm, and he calls his train the “A Experience”. He’s not mispronouncing “Express”, because he does say “express” every four stops or so. He enunciates very clearly, so you can hear the difference. I actually am sad when I arrive at my stop because I don’t want the A Experience to end.
    Also, I think I’ve had your R guy in the morning (wow, that didn’t sound quite right…) once. I was in a hurry, and natch we were c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g from Brooklyn through lower Manhattan. He announces the uncoming City Hall stop, forgets (or “forgets” – not sure) to shut off his PA system, belches horribly, then, in disgust AT HIS OWN BELCH, says, “Ah, GAAD!”.

  13. Glenna May 13, 2007 at 7:27 am #

    I love it when you talk about these daily commutes and all things New York in your daily life. You take it for granted (in a very poetic way, I might add) because you live there but to those of us who were born and raised in the Midwest whose closest run in with public transportation was riding the city bus a couple of times when our cars broke down and we were too young and poor to afford a rental, your stories are very glamorous, even the slow train to Cleveland. Can’t wait to hear about it when you have a Quagmire as a conductor.

  14. ann May 13, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    Lobstersquad — sounds a bit like the one in DC. Theirs is carpeted!

    Mary — I’d never try to rush harissa! As to marrying, we’ll have to see what Spitzer says about that ;-)

    Izzy’s mama — That’s good to know. I got a bit panicky there! I didn’t know about the bits of iron getting into our systems either. Apparently I’m bad at paying attention to stuff.

    Amanda — If I had been drinking diet coke when I read your story, I think it would have come out my nose and gotten all over my keyboard and screen. Thank you so much for sharing (and thanks for stopping by too)!

    Glenna — If I ever run into a Quagmire driving a train, I might just have to move out to the Midwest, too. That would finally put me over the edge! And thanks for the nice compliments!

  15. Anne May 13, 2007 at 1:21 pm #

    Eggs and polenta. Of course! A great combo I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Hope you enjoyed your walk!


  16. sher May 14, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    How I love reading your posts. They are like going on vacation. And that asparagus and poached egg! ARGH!!!!! Heaven! You turn misfortune into a fabulous journey. :)

  17. Tiny Banquet Committee May 20, 2007 at 11:47 am #

    I think I used to hear the radio-announcer R train guy in the morning, before I switched to the F – he used to say “You are rid-ing on the Connnnnnntinental Avenue” and I would feel like I’d stepped into a musical. He should record announcements for ALL the trains.

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