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Asparagus Napoleons with Oriental Black Bean Sauce

Impressive looking, not so impressive tasting. These had the potential to be good, but somehow the combination of the rich, buttery puff pastry and the bitter asparagus didn’t go so well. If it weren’t for the curry salmon this meal could have been a bust.

Asparagus Napoleons with Oriental Black Bean Sauce

Asparagus Napoleons with Oriental Black Bean Sauce

Recipe from Epicurious. Makes 6 appetizer servings.

Ingredients
For the pastry rectangles
1/2 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed
an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water

For the sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Scotch or medium-dry Sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fermented black beans (available at Oriental markets and specialty foods shops), rinsed well and drained
2 tablespoons fine julienne strips of orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled

Directions
Make the pastry rectangles:
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, cut out six 5- by 2-inch rectangles, and transfer them to a dampened baking sheet. Brush the tops of the rectangles with some of the egg wash, being careful not to let the egg wash drip down the sides, score them in a crosshatch pattern with the back of a paring knife, and brush them again with some to the remaining egg wash. Bake the rectangles in the upper third of a preheated 400°F. oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden, transfer them with a spatula to racks, and let them cool. The pastry rectangles may be made 1 day in advance, kept in an airtight container at room temperature, and reheated. Halve the rectangles horizontally with a serrated knife and with a fork pull out carefully any uncooked dough.

Make the sauce:
In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir in the broth, the soy sauce, the Scotch, and the sugar. In a heavy saucepan heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking and in it stir-fry the beans, the zest, the gingerroot, and the garlic for 1 minute, or until the mixture is very fragrant. Stir the broth mixture and add it to the bean mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring, simmer it for 2 minutes, and keep it warm. The sauce may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated.

In a large deep skillet of boiling salted water cook the asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the stalks are just tender but not limp, and drain it well. Arrange the bottom half of each pastry rectangle on a plate and divide the asparagus among the pastries. Spoon the sauce over the asparagus and around the pastries on each plate and top the asparagus with the top halves of the pastries.

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