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Asparagus

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I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I have been through culinary school and have yet to cook a piece of asparagus! All judgement aside, I need help. Now my mom wants me to make some for a party this weekend.
What am I looking for in a good piece of asparagus? Crisp and tight? I've heard that the bigger they are, the older and woodier they are--is that true?
How do I prep them? If I want to grill them, do I need to blanch them first? I am just planning on serving them with simple sauce, probably a balsamic reduction or the pancetta-garlic sauce posted earlier this month, but I am open to any suggestions.
Please help me out if you can. Thank you!

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  1. My personal preference for asparagus is to have them no thicker than a standard pencil. To prep I typically wrap the individual stalks in proscuitto and roast them in a 400 degree oven. They are delicious that way but the wrapping part can be tedious.

    1. Both thick and thin asparagus are just as good. It is more about personal preference and application. You do need to try to get a consistent size for one dish though.

      Hold one end in each hand and let it snap where it wants. Alot of people just snap one piece and then use that as aguide to cut the others. I don't think that is as reliable though. I find no need to peel the sides. However, for a fancier dinner you might want to.

      My absolutely favorite way to prepare asparagus is simply to toss with a little evoo, s&p and roast in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. You want it to brown and crisp some. Then toss with a bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. It is miles better than steamed. I hope this helps.
      -Becca

      1 Reply
      1. re: Becca Porter

        I concur w/this totally although I roast a bit higher, 450. Comes out perfect every time.

        Sometimes I grate a bit of parmagiana reggiano on top afterwards.

        Laurie

      2. Thick and thin are both good - just depends on how you like them and how you want to cook them. For a make-ahead party dish, I'd suggest Asparagus with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette. Blanch asparagus until almost tender to your paring knife. Shock in ice water. Dry, then dress with vinaigrette. Garnish with lots of chopped parsley and/or tarragon.

        Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/17/din...

        1. I roast or steam, or grill. Look for tightly closed tips and if it is thicker than the pencil thin variety I do peel it. It is a bit tedious but I like the texture better and the color. Grilling and roasting bring out a pleasant nutty sweetness. I brush it with olive oil before grilling or roasting and then just dress with a little sea salt and fresh lemon juice.

          1. A discussion of thick and thin

            Link: http://www.latimes.com/features/print...