Holding an asparagus spear in both hands, bend the spear until it breaks naturally at the point where the spear becomes tough. Discard the tough end and repeat with the remaining asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water heats, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and cook the pancetta until the pancetta is almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the leek and saute until softened but not colored.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and add to the skillet. Season mixture with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Serve as a first course or as an entree with Eggs en Cocotte.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Rub the inside of 6 ramekins with the butter and then season with the thyme, distributing both equally amongst the ramekins. Add 2 eggs to each, season with salt and pepper. Place the ramekins in a baking dish, and pour water into the baking dish until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place the baking dish in the pre-heated oven. Bake eggs for 15 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Eat and enjoy!
Yield: 6 servings
Recipe courtesy of Michael Chiarello, 2007