How To Cook Asparagus
(don’t mess this up….yucky asparagus is really unappetizing!)
Asparagus is a flexible almost neutral vegetable that responds well to many different cooking methods and food pairings. Here is a brief lesson on how to cook asparagus, and a few recipes too.
Blanching Snap or trim rough ends from asparagus stalks. Choose a large saucepan or pot. Fill with just enough water to cover asparagus, and a nice bit of table salt. Bring to a strong simmer. Place asparagus directly into the water, cooking just a couple of minutes and removing immediately to an ice bath. This action is termed “refreshing” the blanched veg.
Steaming There is such a thing as a pot just for steaming asparagus. It is a tall and slender column: the stalks are held upright in a wire basket, the tips retaining their tender, sensuous texture because they are never submersed in hot water. A pot dedicated solely to asparagus is entirely unnecessary. Snap or trim rough ends from stalks. Set asparagus in a steam basket over boiling water, cover and cook until the asparagus is bright green and tender, but not stringy, about 4-5 minutes.
Steamed asparagus needs a little extra love: try sea salt and pepper, a little butter or very good olive oil, a pinch or two of freshly grated Parmigiano or pecarino, a twist or two of fresh lemon. Dress with an easy vinaigrette, a quick glaze or simply poached or boiled egg. If you want to be fancy, add bits of prosciutto, mushrooms sautéed with garlic, butter and wine or a flavored hollandaise. Serve hot.
Boiling Snap or trim rough ends from asparagus stalks. Fill a large pot with just enough water to cover asparagus, and a nice bit of table salt. Bring to a strong simmer. Place asparagus directly into the water, cooking 4-5 minutes until tender. Since the asparagus is cooked in salty water, it won’t need much extra seasoning at the table. Dress it up with a little butter and lemon. Serve hot.
Roasting or Grilling Roasting or grilling asparagus brings a special sweet flavor and caramelization to the vegetable. For this method, choose thinner stalks (3/4 inch around or less), and cook over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, turning once, when you have grill marks. Remove from heat, season to taste and serve hot or cold. Roasted, broiled and grilled asparagus is especially good with a glaze or vinaigrette.
Broiling Trim the stalks. Season to taste with salt and pepper, toss with good olive oil. Adjust an oven rack to about 4 inches from the heating element (this is usually the top rack of the oven). Spread the asparagus in a single layer, shaking or using tongs to turn the spears halfway through until they are lightly browned and tender, about 8 minutes. Remove to a platter and serve hot, cool or room temperature.
Stir Fry Use tender stalks to stir-fry, as thick stalks won’t have enough time to cook through. If all you have is thick stalks, use a vegetable peeler to thin them, or slice them in half lengthwise. Trim the ends, and chop the lengths into 1-1/2 or 2 inch pieces on the bias.
Choose a skillet large enough to cook the asparagus in a single layer: tightly packed asparagus will steam-cook and won’t have that stir-fry caramelization. You need some serious heat to stir fry, so get that pan hot, add a bit of oil, cook the asparagus for five minutes or so, then check for doneness- you can pierce it with a fork, but it doesn’t fall apart.
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