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Imperial asparagus

Serves 4 as an appetizer

With its creamy sauce, spiked with smoked fish, this dish recalls Friuli's years as a Hapsburg possession.

2 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off
2 ounces smoked salmon
1 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon milk, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Use a pin to prick the rounded end of the eggs. Lower the eggs into the water and let the water return to a boil, stirring the water gently. Cook the eggs for 10 minutes exactly. Lift them from the water and transfer to very cold water. Tap the eggs to crack them. Remove a thick band of egg shell and return the eggs to cold water until the eggs cool completely.

2. Peel the eggs; set them aside.

3. In a large skillet filled 3/4 full with water, add salt and bring the water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook, moving the spears on top to the bottom, for 3 minutes or until the asparagus are bright green and cooked through.

4. Transfer the asparagus to a plate.

5. Slice eggs and reserve 4 slices for garnish. Reserve a small square of smoked salmon for garnish. In a food processor, combine the remaining eggs, salmon, and sour cream until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is thicker than a pourably consistency, add the milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Divide the asparagus among 4 salad plates. Spoon a little sauce over each bunch. Transfer the remaining sauce to a serving bowl. Add an egg slice to each plate. Cut the salmon into 4 pieces and add salmon to each one. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with the remaining sauce. Adapted from Ristorante Astoria Udine in Udine

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