3 oz. applewood-smoked slab or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch by 1/4-inch lardons
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
one 14 oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes
canola oil (optional)
2 1/2 lb. large asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock
extra-virgin olive oil
Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.
Pour all all but 1-2 tablespoons fat from the pan, reserving the extra fat. Set the pan over medium heat, add the leeks, onion, and garlic to the fat, stir to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes, with their juice, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Transfer half of the mixture to a food processor and puree. Stir the tomatoes back into the pan, return to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 15 minutes. (The larger tomatoes will break down and the stew will have the texture of a thick tomato sauce.) Stir in the bacon and reduce the heat to low.
Heat a large frying pan that will hold half the asparagus in a single layer over medium-low heat. Pour a film of the reserved bacon fat or canola oil into the pan. Arrange half the asparagus in the pan, our 3 tablespoons of the stock over it, and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the asparagus is tender but not limp, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with additional salt to taste and arrange the asparagus on a platter. Repeat with the remaining asparagus.
Spoon the sauce in a band across the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil.
bacon recipe source: ad hoc at home, by Thomas Keller, with Dave Cruz. NY: Artisan/Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2009