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Fine Eats Asparagus Egg Rolls With Hollandaise Sauce

40 spears asparagus, trimmed to 4-inch lengths
8 pieces menlo egg roll wrappers (see note), thawed
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 t. minced shallots
2 t. red wine vinegar
2 T. canola oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 bunch mint, julienned
1/2 bunch chervil, coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Hollandaise Sauce (recipe follows)
Hard-cooked egg, optional garnish
Canola oil for frying

In a large saucepan, bring to boil enough water to cover asparagus; season strongly with kosher salt (the water should taste noticeably salty). Place asparagus in pan and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from cooking water; place on a tray in a single layer and immediately place in the refrigerator to chill.

While asparagus is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Soak the minced shallots in the vinegar for about 30 minutes; then drizzle the oil into the vinegar in a slow stream, whisking briskly with a small whisk or fork, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When ready to wrap asparagus, separate egg roll sheets and lay them out singly on a flat surface. With the point of a sheet toward you, place a bundle of 5 spears diagonally across the sheet away from you, starting just inside the point; fold the tip of the point over the end of the bundle nearest you. Make the roll by folding across the left and the right points, and rolling tightly; finish by brushing beaten egg over the last 1 inch of the top point and folding it over to seal the roll. (Egg rolls can be prepared up to this point one day in advance.)

To cook asparagus egg rolls, fry in 3 or 4 inches of hot canola oil, in a fryer heated to 375 F, or in a deep pan, for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Fry in small batches, two at a time, so oil temperature does not drop abruptly.

Just before serving, toss mint, chervil and cilantro with shallot vinaigrette. Serve asparagus egg rolls with Hollandaise Sauce and the tossed herb-shallot vinaigrette. If desired, grate hard-cooked egg over Hollandaise.

Note: Wrappers for egg rolls, sometimes labeled "egg roll skins" (although there is no egg in the dough), are sold in the refrigerator section of Chinese groceries and Asian food markets in packages of 10 or 25, usually frozen. Menlo is a type of wrapper. Wrappers are about 8-by-8-inches square and paper-thin - and it is hard for a home cook to duplicate their translucent thinness and texture. The wrappers should thaw for 3 or 4 hours before they are used. The best are usually imported; avoid thick egg roll skins sometimes sold in Western supermarkets.

Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks
2 T. water
1 lb. butter
2 t. lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Place water and egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl and place over scalding water. Whisking constantly, cook the yolks until the mixture triples in volume. (It is important to keep whisking and moving the yolks to avoid the possibility of their scrambling.) This process should take about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, slowly melt the butter. When melted, clarify it by skimming the foam (whitish milk solids) off the top; keep warm while preparing the yolks.

When yolks are whisked and ready, wrap a moist towel around the base of the bowl and start to slowly drizzle in the melted butter, whisking constantly, until sauce is thick and creamy. Whisk in lemon juice and zest, and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until served (holding it over a "bain marie," a pan filled with hot water, works well).

Makes 8 servings.

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