Every time I wander out in the backyard behind the wine shack, I always look longingly at my beloved dwarf Meyer lemon tree. I get excited by it not only because I love the bright, happy yellow fruit that hangs from it, but also I love the fact that I can grow any kind of citrus here in soggy Portland (this spring especially... this weather has been fucking brutal!). It's been producing a bounty of lemons lately, and I'm always trying to come up with new ways to use them. I've had following rolling around my food-obsessed dome for a couple of weeks now, and last night was the time to put it to the test. I had this feeling that the sweetly tart Meyers would get along perfectly with fresh spring asparagus, plus I have several chunks of portioned out pancetta just waiting in my freezer at home and any opportunity to use the glory that is a cured pork product is one not to pass up!
So after remarkably little effort and a kitchen filled with this mixture of head swirling and appetite inducing scents...garlic infused olive olive oil, fried pancetta, tart-sweet citrus....I have to say that this was absolutely freaking delicious and racked up a huge score on my pleasure meter. Served alongside a crisp bottle of Sancerre, this was food and wine heaven!
*** *** ***
Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four or five smashed, peeled garlic cloves
1 Meyer lemon, cut into thin slices and chopped up, saving the juices
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on the bias into 1" pieces
4 to 5 ounces pancetta, chopped into 1/4" dice
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound dried pasta
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1-Put large pasta pot with water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, add three tablespoons salt and pasta and cook to desired doneness (I admit, I'm not a big al dente guy).
2-Put olive oil into large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat, add garlic cloves and let them infuse oil, turning occasionally. Remove cloves when they turn golden brown (do not let them burn!). Add chopped pancetta and fry until crisp, approximately 8 minutes. When pancetta is crisp, carefully drain off about half of rendered fat.
3-While pancetta is cooking bring small saucepan of salted water to boil. When it comes to a boil, add asparagus and cook for three minutes. Quickly remove from heat and dump into ice bath to stop cooking. Set aside.
4-When pancetta is done, turn heat down to medium-low and add lemon (with the juices) and asparagus and heat through for a couple of minutes. When pasta is done, drain and return to pasta pot and add pancetta mixture. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Serve immediately, passing remaining cheese for sprinkling on top.