Both are in season at roughly the same time and the asparagus really must be eaten as soon as you get your hands on it. It makes a lovely partner for the Jersey's.
Anyone who has seen the fields where these golden - okay, brown and dirty - nuggets are grown, with their majestic sea views, can understand why they have the Royal appendage. You can cook Jerseys very simply because they are so delicious as they are, perhaps adding a hefty knob of butter to them fresh from the saucepan or steamer, maybe with a little sea salt and a scattering of parsley, chives or fresh mint.
This recipe bathes the potatoes and asparagus in a creamy sauce made savoury with bacon to delicious effect. The earthy taters take deliciously to the creamy, smoky cheesy goodness leavened by the mildly oniony nip of spring onions, and the asparagus has enough character to partner beautifully with the potatoes without being overwhelmed. Lovely on its own with a salad, it could also make a fine side dish for slow-roasted meats and even a tranche of your best smoked haddock. The recipe is pretty flexible and could accommodate the addition of softened leeks, or cooked spinach, chard or other tender leafy greens. Indeed, I dare say you could swap the bacon in this recipe for smoked salmon or flaked smoked haddock and take the luxury up another notch.
- 500g Jersey Royal potatoes, cut into bite sized chunks or thick slices (other types of new potato will do nicely)
- 200g asparagus spears after the woody ends have been trimmed, sliced into bite-sized lengths leaving the spears whole
- 100g smoked bacon lardons, or smoked streaky bacon cut into matchsticks
- 2-3 spring onions finely sliced
- 250ml crème fraîche or double cream, or a mixture of both. The cream makes for a richer gratin.
- 150 ml stock (vegetable or chicken is best)
- 1 tbsp chives, chopped
- 75g cheddar or other hard, well-flavoured cheese like gruyère, grated
- Heat a large saucepan over a moderate heat and add the smoked bacon and fry until just beginning to crisp, then spoon the bacon lardons onto a piece of kitchen paper in a bowl to drain.
- Add the stock and the crème fraiche or cream to a saucepan over a low heat. Bring up to a simmer and add the spring onions and chives. If you use crème fraîche make sure you don't boil the mixture as it might split. Cook for a few minutes then take off the heat, but keep warm.
- Bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil and cook until the potato pieces are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes or so depending on how big they have been cut. A few minutes before the potatoes are finished add the sliced asparagus.
- Once the potatoes and asparagus are tender drain them well and pour the crème fraiche mixture over them. Stir in the bacon and heat gently together for five minutes or so.
- While heating the sauce and potatoes together pre-heat a grill.
- Transfer the potato mixture to an ovenproof dish. Scatter over the grated cheese and slide under the grill for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
- Serve with a green salad.
There is plenty of creamy sauce for mopping or spooning up with this dish, enough to accommodate leeks, spinach chard, rocket, watercress or cooked spring greens if you want to add more veg. If you want a thicker sauce add a teaspoonful of flour to the bacon as it finishes frying and stir the whole lot into the crème fraîche mixture at the outset of stage 2 in the method, cooking out until just thickening. Otherwise, we like to have some bread handy to mop up, have a spoon to hand, and at the very least we squish the potatoes into the sauce with our forks. A zestily dressed green salad balances things off nicely too. And you don't have to use Jersey, or even new potatoes. Whatever spuds you have, cut into manageable pieces, will do, though you may need to be careful not to overcook them if you use a very floury type. Also, you can drop the bacon if it's not your bag, and maybe add smoked tofu. I haven't personally tried it, but I reckon it would work with florets of broccoli too if you fancy it.
This is incredibly accommodating for wine. I can't really think of much that wouldn't go with this dish beyond very delicate whites and fruit-bomb reds (even then, they wouldn't be disastrous if you love those styles).
In the white wine department try The Society's White Burgundy for its ripe round fruit in a lovely vintage, the richer Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard, Mâcon-Villages or the oakier Bogle Vineyard Californian Chardonnay and the poised Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. If you use crème fraîche then a touch of sauvignon wouldn't go amiss, perhaps in the harmonious blend of Château Bel Air Perponcher Réserve, Bordeaux Blanc or the ripe Craggy Range Te Muna Road Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc. For grapy fruitiness to meet the asparagus halfway consider Saleta Moscatel-Sauvignon Blanc to refresh the palate.
For red wines to pair with the dish the The Society's Exhibition Fleurie has wonderful fresh fruit, while the ever reliable Côtes-du-Rhône, Domaine Jaume marries ripeness with roundness but won't overpower the dish .The earthy berry notes of the Viña Zorzal Graciano, Navarra will work with the potatoes and bacon, while the cherry fruit of the The Society's French Pinot Noir or the fuller Momo Marlborough Pinot Noir are delicious too.