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Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Grass, Ginger and Tea Vinaigrette

Serves 4

2 bunches asparagus, about 1 lb, 2 oz. (560 g) in total
Sea salt and black pepper
8 long bay leaves
8 long thyme sprigs
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, chilled and thinly sliced
1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed and minced
1 1/4-inch (3 cm) piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon verbena tea leaves
Rind of 1 lemon, finely pared
2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
5 tbsp (75 mL) strong black tea, strained
1 tbsp (15 mL) Chardonnay vinegar, or other white wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) superfine sugar
Pinch of sea salt
8 tsp (40 mL) olive oil

For asparagus, bring pan of salted water to a boil and have ready a bowl of iced water on the side. Meanwhile, trim the woody bases of spears and peel the lower ends of the stalks.

Add to boiling water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender. Immediately plunge asparagus in iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry.

Cut bay leaves into skinny strips. Using a small knife, make four slits at even intervals along the length of each asparagus spear. Thread slits with strips of bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Heat broiler to the highest setting.

For the vinaigrette, put all ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer; immediately remove from heat and pour into a small teapot or pitcher.

Scatter remaining bay leaf strips on a large baking sheet; set threaded asparagus spears on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with sliced butter and broil for 5 to 6 minutes.

Transfer to warm serving plates; strain dressing over aspara-gus and serve immediately.