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April 23, 2010 in sides, vegetarian2 comments

how to prepare the first asparagus of the season

*this* is what you do with the first asparagus of the season

Do you have an asparagus patch or access to one? If you have any bit of yard at all and you like asparagus, there’s really no reason not to put some in. Asparagus is a perennial, takes up little room, and requires practically no care. Seriously. Mow or cut it down in the fall after it’s gone to seed, and that’s about it. This is one vegetable that absolutely weighs in on the positive end of the scale of labor cost v. return on investment.

the asparagus controversy: fat or thin stalks?

asparagus: nice first of the season fatties

Nearly every cookbook I’ve ever seen that talks about asparagus says the thinnest stalks are tenderest and most flavorful.

And nearly every cookbook is wrong.

chopped raw asparagus. try it.

Yep, that’s it. I’m taking a stand. I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.

I shall proudly wear my badge of contrariness with pride and redundancy. Fat asparagus stalks are the best.

The fatties have more of that asparagus goodness to them, and less outer skin/stalk. They’re sweeter and have more flavor. Why on earth would anyone think the thin ones are better? Save the thin ones for roasting.

what happens to the very first asparagus of the season?

see. just a teeny bit of water.

There’s so much that can be done with asparagus. Roast it, use it in quiches, risotto, or stir fries…but two things happen with the very first asparagus of the season.

1. A few bites get eaten raw. Really, it’s good.

adding butter, salt and pepper to the cooked asparagus

2. It gets chopped up, simmered in a smidgen of water for no more than two or three minutes, and dressed with a little butter, salt, and pepper.

I think the quick simmer in enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan is the midwest version of steaming. My mom does it, my grandmas did it, they did it that way before there were microwaves. Like steaming, it cooks vegetables crisp-tender, so they are done but still have a bite to them.

So yeah, this isn’t so much a recipe as it is a simple way to prepare vegetables. But it’s wonderful for the freshest vegetables because it’s so simple. A great example of this is over at Cook Local. They made a balsamic rhubarb reduction as a dipping sauce for roasted asparagus, and then found themselves ignoring it entirely because the asparagus itself was so. Damn. Good.

After getting tired of plain asparagus this way, I’ll make risotto and quiche and roasted asparagus.

But for now, plain is So. Damn. Good.

asparagus, plain and simple

Measurements are loose and flexible. The only constant is putting in just enough, and only enough, water so that it doesn’t all boil away during cooking time. When trimming the ends of asparagus, don’t use the “bend and snap” method — you lose a lot of good, tender asparagus that way. Instead, trim the end with a knife at the point where the asparagus yields easily. You can feel the difference between woody and tender parts as you slice. And if where you sliced gave you resistance, you can always just slice again a bit further up the stalk.

    half a pound to a pound of asparagus
    ½ to 1 teaspoon butter
    salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the asparagus well. If the asparagus came from sandy ground, be sure to rinse under or remove the little triangular “leaves” that hug the side of the stalks, as sand will accumulate under there.

Trim the asparagus of woody ends. Chop into 1-inch lengths. Put chopped asparagus into a pan and add water to just cover the bottom of the pan, about ¼ inch deep.

Bring to a boil. This will happen quickly because of the small amount of water. Lower heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Two minutes will yield crunchier asparagus, three softer.

Drain asparagus and toss with butter, salt and pepper. Enjoy until you get sick of it. This means you are ready to move on to stage 2 of asparagus season: cooking it in something else.

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  1. brian_in_gib says:

    That looks goooood! But I’d switch the butter for some extra virgin olive oil. And maybe a clove or two of garlic. I love asparagus!
    Greetings from Gibraltar.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Brian! I still wish I’d made a jaunt by Gibraltar and down to Morocco when I lived in Sevilla. Yeah, prepare it to your personal taste. I’ve tried EVOO with this asparagus recipe before and just didn’t fancy it. But I like EVOO when roasting asparagus, so go figure.

      I think it might be old childhood tastes coming to the fore, because all veggies made this way when I was a kid had a little bit of butter on them. :)

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