Because of their mutual delicateness, spring vegetables tend to go really well with shellfish, without overpowering the seafood’s subtle sweetness. Really, any crabmeat would do here, or you could substitute little bay shrimp. What do provide a concentrated pocket of flavor are the crispy capers, which we dry, then fry, to rid them of their spongy quality and turn them into a crunchy garnish. If you do the frying up to several hours in advance, they’ll be ready and waiting when the asparagus is fresh off the grill. Served alongside any protein or mushroom from the grill, this dish brings a surf-and-turf quality to any meal.
- To make the crispy capers, heat the vegetable oil in a small pot over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°F. Meanwhile, place the capers on a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Gently drop the capers into the oil and fry until they have opened slightly and dried out, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and let cool on a paper towel.
- Prepare a grill to medium-high heat.
- Place the asparagus on a flat surface and drizzle with the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly. Grill, turning frequently, until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.
- To make the crab, warm a skillet over medium heat on the stove. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then add the butter, piece by piece, swirling the pan to emulsify. Once all the butter has been added and the sauce is thickened, add the lemon juice and zest, the cayenne pepper, then the crab, swirling the pan constantly. Let cook over low heat until the crab is just heated through, about 1 minute; remove immediately. Stir in the chives and dill. Taste and add salt, if necessary.
- To serve, spoon the herbed crab over the warm asparagus. Garnish with the crispy capers and tarragon.
Excerpted from “Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant” by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by Evan Sung.