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Now reading Black-Truffle Asparagus in Pig’s Bladder

Black-Truffle Asparagus in Pig’s Bladder

You can use fata paper if you can't get your hands on bladder.

A server sets a copper pot filled with steaming stock and an herb bouquet on the table. A chef swoops in to float an inflated pig’s bladder in the liquid, explaining that within this hay-colored balloon are spears of asparagus. Holding onto the top of the bladder, he steadily ladles liquid over the parchment-thin skin, releasing a warm, meaty scent. He then whisks away the bladder and returns with the asparagus from within—succulent and meaty, yet still retaining the freshness of snapping off a spring stalk and biting into it raw.

The dish is nothing new, actually: early in his classical French training, Humm learned to cook a traditional poularde en vessie. He just swaps the traditional Bresse chicken for asparagus here. Though he and his chefs make the technique look easy, it’s not. The bladder can’t have a hole in it. Even if it’s flawless, it must be continually moistened or it may dry out and crack. The temperature of the broth in which it sits must be simmering just enough to heat the broth inside so it steams the slightly floppy balloon into a taut but not overfilled sphere.

Nor is the bladder just for show. While the technique works with fata paper, which looks like cellophane but can withstand high temperatures, the resulting dish lacks the extra dimension of the original. Still, it’s worth using if you can’t find a good bladder. They’re hard to come by. —Genevieve Ko

Bladders

Makes 10 servings
  • 10 pigs’ or cows’ bladders or 1 roll fata paper
  • 20 thick asparagus spears
  • + kosher salt
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 C Truffle Pork Dashi
  • 1/2 bunch celery, sliced lengthwise into thirds
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch chervil
  • 1/2 bunch tarragon
  • 8 C Bladder Basting Broth
  • + Black-Truffle Purée
  • + Potato Purée

Special Equipment

  • + Siphon with carbon-dioxide chargers
  • + Raffia ribbon, for tying bladders and herb bundles

Truffle Pork Dashi

  • 1/4 sheet kombu
  • 1 C bonito flakes
  • + white soy sauce
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • + shaved black truffle (this could be truffle peelings; EMP uses about 1 gram's worth)
  • 1 1/2 C Pork Broth
  • + ginger juice
  • + lime juice
  • + kosher salt
  • + xantham gum, if needed

Pork Broth

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork knuckles
  • 1 1/4 lbs chicken wings
  • 10 oz chicken feet
  • 1 pig's foot, split
  • 1 lb pork belly
  • 1 1/2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in 1/2" thick slices
  • 4 oz ginger, cut in 1/2" thick slices
  • + white soy sauce
  • + ginger juice

Bladder Basting Broth

  • + grapeseed oil
  • 4 lbs meaty pork neck bones
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 t black peppercorns

Black-Truffle Purée

  • 1 1/2 T cold unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 t sliced shallot
  • 1 oz canned black truffle, chopped
  • 1 T Madeira
  • 2 T black truffle juice
  • + kosher salt
  • + black truffle oil
  • + late-harvest apple vinegar

Potato Purée

  • + kosher salt
  • 5 oz fingerling potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • + brown butter

Preparation

Truffle Pork Dashi

Truffle Pork Dashi
  • 1/4 sheet kombu
  • 1 C bonito flakes
  • + white soy sauce
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • + shaved black truffle (this could be truffle peelings; EMP uses about 1 gram's worth)
  • 1 1/2 C Pork Broth
  • + ginger juice
  • + lime juice
  • + kosher salt
  • + xantham gum, if needed
  1. Toast the kombu over an open flame until it just begins to wilt. Rinse under cold water and soak in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.

  2. Drain and combine the kombu with 3⁄4 cup fresh water in a small saucepan. Bring to just under a simmer; do not let the liquid bubble. Cover, turn off the heat, and steep for 45 minutes.

  3. Add the bonito flakes. Let soak for 12 minutes and then strain through a clean cotton napkin or cheesecloth set in a sieve over a small saucepan. Season to taste with white soy and bring to a simmer.

  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl to create a slurry. Stir the slurry into the simmering dashi to create a sauce-like consistency. Add more cornstarch slurry if needed. Add the black truffle and taste again to see if it needs more soy.

  5. Stir in the Pork Broth. Season with ginger juice and a small amount of lime juice. Add white soy and salt to taste. Add more cornstarch slurry if needed to maintain a rich consistency. If the fat from the pork broth separates, blend in a tiny bump of xanthan gum to keep it emulsified.

Pork Broth

Pork Broth
  • 1 1/2 lbs pork knuckles
  • 1 1/4 lbs chicken wings
  • 10 oz chicken feet
  • 1 pig's foot, split
  • 1 lb pork belly
  • 1 1/2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in 1/2" thick slices
  • 4 oz ginger, cut in 1/2" thick slices
  • + white soy sauce
  • + ginger juice
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Spread the pork knuckles and chicken wings in a single layer on a half-sheet pan. Roast until deeply browned, about 1 hour.

  2. Place the chicken feet, pig’s foot, and pork belly in a stockpot. Add the roasted meats and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim away any foam and impurities that rise to the surface, keeping the fat in the broth.

  3. Boil the soup over high heat for 8 hours, adding water as it reduces to keep the meat covered. It’s important to boil the soup to emulsify the fat into the broth.

  4. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and cook, turning regularly, until very charred on all sides, 2–5 minutes. Add to the boiling soup, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes.

  5. Drain the broth into a large saucepan, press- ing all the juices out of the cooked meat. Depending on the size of your pot, you should have about 6 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce to 1 1⁄2 cups, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with white soy and ginger juice. Chill and reserve until ready to use.

Bladder Basting Broth

Bladder Basting Broth
  • + grapeseed oil
  • 4 lbs meaty pork neck bones
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  1. Heat a large stockpot over high heat and coat with oil. Add the pork bones and sear, turning often to brown them evenly, until deeply caramelized. Remove and reserve the bones; discard most of the fat from the pot.

  2. Brown the onion and celery in the same pot. Return the bones to the pot and add water to cover, about 1 1⁄4 gallons. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the garlic, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. Cook, skimming any foam and impurities that rise to the surface, until the meat falls off the bones, about 5 hours.

  3. Strain the broth into a clean large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until reduced to 8 cups, about 45 minutes. Chill and reserve until ready to use.

Black-Truffle Purée

Black-Truffle Purée
  • 1 1/2 T cold unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 t sliced shallot
  • 1 oz canned black truffle, chopped
  • 1 T Madeira
  • 2 T black truffle juice
  • + kosher salt
  • + black truffle oil
  • + late-harvest apple vinegar
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until foamy. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent but not browned. Add the truffle and cook, stirring, until fragrant and tender.

  2. Turn up the heat a smidge, add the Madeira and cook, stirring and scraping, until the pan is almost dry. Add the truffle juice and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1⁄2 tablespoon butter. Immediately transfer to a blender and purée until very smooth, adding a little water if needed to blend. Season to taste with salt, truffle oil, and apple vinegar.

Potato Purée

Potato Purée
  • + kosher salt
  • 5 oz fingerling potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • + brown butter
  1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook until tender. Drain and pass the potatoes through a fine tamis or food mill. Hold in a medium heatproof bowl.

  2. Bring the cream and butter to a simmer in a small saucepan and gently fold into the potatoes. Season to taste with brown butter and salt. The potato purée should be a thin consistency—a bit more like cream of potato soup than mashed potatoes.

Bladders
  • 10 pigs’ or cows’ bladders or 1 roll fata paper
  • 20 thick asparagus spears
  • + kosher salt
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 C Truffle Pork Dashi
  • 1/2 bunch celery, sliced lengthwise into thirds
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch chervil
  • 1/2 bunch tarragon
  • 8 C Bladder Basting Broth
  • + Black-Truffle Purée
  • + Potato Purée
  1. Place the bladders in a large bowl, cover generously with water, and weigh them down with a clean, rust-free wire rack. Refrigerate overnight.

  2. Change the water and soak for another 6 hours in the fridge. Change the water again, and soak once more for another 6 hours. Rinse the bladders well with cold water, inside and out, right before using. Alternately, if using fata paper, cut it into 10 2-foot squares.

  3. Trim off and discard the tough woody ends of the asparagus; peel the bottom 1 1⁄2 inches of each spear.

  4. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Immediately plunge the asparagus into the ice-water bath. Once cool, drain well.

  5. Place 2 asparagus spears into each washed and soaked bladder, along with 1 thyme sprig. Divide the Truffle Pork Dashi evenly among the bladders. Using an empty siphon charged with carbon dioxide, fill each bladder about two-thirds of the way, and twist the top to form a slightly deflated balloon. Tie the top tightly with raffia and trim the ends. (If using fata paper, fit the paper into a narrow bowl, fill with asparagus, thyme, and dashi, then gather up the sides and hold tightly to create a narrow opening. Insert the siphon through the opening, fill, and tie.)

  6. Tie together the celery, flat-leaf parsley, chervil, and tarragon with raffia. Heat the Bladder Basting Broth and the herb bundle in a large, shallow saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. Add a filled bladder, letting it float but holding on to the top. (Work with 1 portion/inflated bladder at a time.) Baste with liquid continuously until the asparagus and dashi are warmed through and the bladder inflates slightly, about 8 minutes. (This is when you present it tableside to wow your guests then take it back to the kitchen to finish.)

  7. Carefully open the bladder and transfer the contents to a saucepan. Heat gently over medium-low heat until hot, about 5 minutes.

  8. For each serving, spoon a little Black-Truffle Purée onto a plate. Cover the truffle purée with the Potato Purée. Lift the plate and gently tap the bottom against a work surface to flatten the purées into a single round. The potato should completely cloak the truffle. Arrange the hot asparagus next to the purées and spoon the sauce from the pan on top, leaving the thyme behind.