Monday, January 18, 2010

Knock-off Asparagus Fries

If you've ever been to Isabella's in Frederick, Maryland, you will know why I am obsessed with recreating their incredible, amazing, otherworldly asparagus fries. The last time I was there, I pumped the waiter for information, and was able to glean a few of the ingredients that are used, and attempted to use my taste-buds to identify the rest. So this week, as my contribution to the Monday Meal Challenge, I give you my not-quite-the-same-but-still-delicious asparagus fries.

Because I am an overachiever, I decided that the roasted tomato aioli sauce just had to made with fresh, homemade mayonnaise. So, the first step for me was to make mayonnaise from scratch for the first time. I used Julia's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it turned out quite well.

Mayonnaise ingredients
Ingredients for Homemade Mayonnaise

Making mayonnaise
Mayonnaise in the Food Processor

Meanwhile, I was roasting the tomatoes for the aioli. I used four medium-sized tomatoes, cored and cut up into hunks, tossed in a small bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, and some dried basil. Then I laid them on a silicone-mat-lined baking sheet, and baked at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.

Tomatoes for roasting
Tomatoes ready for roasting

Roasted tomatoes
Roasted tomatoes, mmmm

Now, this sauce is definitely not yet up to par with Isabella's, but it was pretty dang good in its own right, so here's the recipe I came up with:

Roasted Tomato Aioli
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup roasted tomatoes
dash paprika
dash salt
1-2 Tbsp whole milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. If too thick, add a dash of olive oil.

Then there were the asparagus fries themselves. I managed to get out of the waiter that they were breaded in panko. So, I snapped the woody ends off my asparagus, dredged in flour, then egg, and then in panko breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried them in canola oil. I do not have a working thermometer, so I have no idea what temperature the oil was at -- all I know is, it was initially too hot and I had to let it cool a bit before it worked right. Ideally these things should only be in the oil 10-15 seconds. Take them out when the breading is browned (but not blackened)!



Serve the fried asparagus with the aioli. Isabella's serves them in champagne flutes, so I attempted to put mine in a wine glass, but they just flopped over. Oh well. My asparagus was definitely floppier than theirs, but taste-wise, it was still delicious. Maybe I'll try thicker stalks next time?

Asparagus fries!

Anyway, I urge you, if you have a favorite dish at a restaurant, try to figure out what's in it and make it at home! It may never even come close to your favorite restaurant dish, but the experimentation and culinary detective work that comes from trying to figure out is a lot of fun... not to mention, delicious!


  1. Now you've got me excited for my first asparagus harvest. And here I thought hollandaise sauce was spectacular....!

  2. Great photos and great looking food! I am going to try your recipe!

  3. I'm going to try this later tonight, but I'm subbing the roasted tomatoes for Scott Conant's spaghetti pomodoro sauce recipe that I hijacked (as seen on Travel Channel's No Reservations and Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate) and I just have "normal" italian bread crumbs. No panko. Boo! But I'll report back on how this works out. Thanks for posting!