may country ham
photograph by Erin Reitz

“I love taking advantage of the fresh ingredients that are available this time of year as spring produce makes its way to our farmer’s markets. Count yourself lucky if you can find local asparagus; asparagus takes three years to produce a reliable crop for sale. Local spring eggs are easier to come by, and they make this dish delectable. Country ham, aged for a year or more, can be more sublime than prosciutto or Serrano ham in a dish like this.”

– Chef Jay Pierce

Yield: 4 servings.

Country Ham
2 ounces of country ham, shaved paper thin

Seared Asparagus
1 bundle of standard green asparagus (not jumbo, not pencil)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Warm cast iron skillet over medium heat. In a separate bowl, toss together asparagus, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Add to warm skillet. Move the asparagus around until heated through and tender.

Poached eggs
8 farm eggs
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 cups water

Heat water in a shallow pan to about 190 degrees. Add salt and vinegar. Swirl water with a slotted spoon, then crack eggs into the vortex. As eggs bob to the surface, gently prod them to determine when the white is fully cooked. Remove eggs with slotted spoon.

Mustard Vinaigrette
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 small shallots, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground white pepper

Add all ingredients to mason jar, then securely seal the lid. Shake vigorously until all ingredients are well combined.

Crusty Croutons
1 cup french bread, cubed
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a mixing bowl, toss bread with oil and salt. Add to warm skillet; heat through until golden. Transfer to a clean plate.

For Assembly:
Divide cooked asparagus between four oblong plates. Place a fourth of the shaved ham in the center of the asparagus. Top the country ham with two poached eggs. Drizzle eggs with vinaigrette and garnish with croutons.

About Southern Season

southern season imageSouthern Season was founded in 1975 in an 800-square-foot space in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our original focus was on roasting coffee but we soon became known for the breadth and quality of our gourmet food, wine, cheese, and cookware. We outgrew the original space and moved to a larger location nearby in the early 1980s, and then to our current 60,000-square-foot flagship location in 2003.

In 1992, we fulfilled our dream of opening a restaurant. Weathervane reflected our vision for Southern cuisine and commitment to service and hospitality. The 2003 move allowed for a larger patio and added more spaces, a mezzanine level and garden settings for receptions, parties, and meetings. Today, Weathervane is an integral partner of the distinctive marketplace that has become a Chapel Hill tradition.

To fully serve the gourmet lifestyle of our customers, we opened our first cooking school in 2003. Today, with schools in Chapel Hill and Charleston’s Mount Pleasant community, and another to follow this summer in Atlanta, we offer over hundreds of classes annually on a wide range of culinary subjects for cooks of all levels.

For years, customers asked when the company was expanding to other markets. First up was the Charleston area in 2013. In 2015, we launched a new concept and opened our smaller Taste of Southern Season store in Raleigh. A second Taste store will open in July in Asheville’s Biltmore Village, followed by a full-service store in Atlanta in August. Other Taste stores scheduled to open before Christmas 2016 include Wilmington and Southern Pines; Charlottesville, Va,; downtown Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

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Jay Pierce is the Executive Chef of The Marshall FreeHouse in Greensboro, NC, making good use of more than twenty five years in kitchens from coast to coast. Jay took the helm of the UK-inspired gastropub after returning to Greensboro from Charlotte, where he was the Executive Chef at ROCKSALT, focusing on sustainable seafood. He has spent over seven years with Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants and an additional eight years exploring the underappreciated foodways of the North Carolina Piedmont, as the executive chef for Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary. His celebration of the area’s traditions and farmers brought its recipes and pantry local acclaim, enlivening menus with many locally-sourced ingredients. He has always found ways to tell the stories behind the food, as a contributor to Our State’s website, columnist for 1808 magazine and with essays published in Local Palate, Edible Piedmont, Savor NC, and Beer Connoisseur, as well as on CNN’s Eatocracy blog and as a guest blogger for The Local Palate magazine and A Chef’s Life. In March 2015, UNC Press published Jay’s first book, Shrimp, as part of the Savor the South collection.