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Asparagus virgin...

So, I know I disliked asparagus as a kid. However, I am having some foodies for dinner on Tuesday and as I wandered through the store last night at 10pm in search of Easter dinner inspiration, the asparagus looked lovely and it was on sale, so I bought 2 bunches. As of the minute, I have it standing upright in my juice pitcher in about 3 inches of water in the fridge. Is that right?

Secondly, I haven't a damn clue what to do with it. My menu for Tuesday is:

Strip steaks, lightly seasoned and grilled with a balsamic drizzle
Roasted tomato cream pasta with shaved fontinella
Red leaf lettuce salad with grape tomatoes, craisins, almonds, gorgonzola and white balsamic viniagrette.
Bruscetta, but unsure of the topping yet.

Can I roast it? Blanch it first? Grill it? What sauce or seasoning should I do? I know I have to snap off the woody ends and that's about all I know.

Thanks in advance, Hounds. (and I am making my first potato gratin as we speak...pray for me)

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  1. Super easy and delicious is to roast them. Trim bottoms by at least an inch, spread out on a baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and roast at 400 for about 20 minutes. You can squeeze some lemon or lemon zest on them after they come out of the oven but they are great just as is. I ate about a lb. myself last night for dinner!! Happy Easter!

    7 Replies
    1. re: 4chowpups

      you can also use a little dry white wine white roasting and finish with thinly shaved sheets of Parmigiano Reggiano and/or slivers of almond.

      1. re: mimolette

        I also like to roast it with olive oil, garlic and/or sesame seeds. So good!

        1. re: Keramel

          I would add a dash of balsamic when roasting, especially to complement your steak strips.

      2. re: 4chowpups

        I roasted several bunches for dinner for ten last night, with just salt, pepper and EVOO. Meant to sprinkle some lemon juice on them before serving, but forgot, and it made no difference.

        Easy. One trick that I picked up right here on CH that made it even easier, especially when roasting a lot for a crowd: use a cookie sheet lined with foil. Read that and thought, duh, why haven't I thought of that before: Size was perfect for four bunches, and super easy cleanup!

        1. re: 4chowpups

          That's my favorite way to prepare asparagus too, and I did the same last night as well!

          1. re: 4chowpups

            Agreed. Except I do it at 500 for about 15 minutes or so. This also works great for broccoli. I'll roast broccoli or asparagus for a late night snack. I usually like some grated parmessan on asparagus... usually just eat the broccoli plain.

            1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

              That's funny, I usually use grated parmesan on my broccoli and eat the asparagus plain!

          2. If the stalks are a woody, hold near the ends, bend--they will break at the point where you can discard the woody part. Toss spears into salted boiling water for up to a minute and then into an ice bath. I like taking freshly grated Parm-Reg, dropping in some lime juice. The cheese dissolves into a lovely creamy sauce.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I also like a "minimalist" prep like this. Barely-boiled, then chilled, they will hold for hours, brilliant green.

              I will try to restrain myself from comments about Easter fecundity, Asparagus virgins, or the turgid tips of asparagus now emerging from the earth in the garden.

              Two basic divides: If you're gonna roast them (awesome), then pick thicker spears. If you want to quick blanch, pick thinner ones.

              My "Go-To" prep for storebought asparagus: Get a bunch of pencil thins. Trim the reddish/dried-out 1/4 inch off the base. Now imagine soup. Line up the asparagus, with all tips butted against your knifeblade. Cut all tips to a uniform length (ca. 3 inches), fior later blanching as presentation as the top component to soup. Then dice midsections, boiil, and make soup from the diced tipless midsections, pureeing the 3 minute boiled stems (via the blender, Food processor, or the easieat : stick blender). This is a good time to check the fridge for other "need to become soup" veggies. For presentation of the green soup, place the uniformly cut asparagus tips on top.

              Dicing and pureeing the lower woodier sections allows you to overcome the need for snapping / peeling and get the most food value for your vegetable-purchase-buck.

            2. Roasting or grilling is my prefered method. I think it really brings out the sweetness of fresh asparagus. If I grill them outdoors though I stick them in one of those veggie grilling baskets. As you can imagine the potential for falling through the grate is great (sorry I couldn't resist the pun).

              1 Reply
              1. On thicker stalks I trim the bottoms about an inch, then I peel them using a "spargelschaler" -- a handy little tool I brought back from Germany a few years back. While it's designed to be used primarily on tough-stemmed white asparagus, it does a great job on green asparagus as well, and makes the stems oh-so-tender. Locally, I've seen these asparagus peelers in Williams-Sonoma.

                I use an upright asparagus steamer with a basket insert to cook them. The stems sit in the boiling water and the rest of the stalk simply gets steamed.

                1. my 2 favorite was are grilled or roasted -

                  made roasted last night - some evoo and s&p, 425 for 15-20 minutes. then some lemon or parm cheese.

                  on the grill - soy sauce, garlic and a touch of sugar - marinated then grilled. ive turned on several people to asparagus with this one. people who swear that asparagus is disgusting :)

                  ive also sauteed or steamed them, and drizzeled on a lemon herb sauce.

                  1. Second roasting or grilling, then I serve w/ a sauce of miso paste, soy sauce/bragg's, balsamic vinegar, yellow mustard, lemon juice, scallions and sometimes a little sesame oil and/or ginger depending upon the crowd.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Emme

                      break one then cut the rest. I save the ends of course! Cream of asparagus soup with smoked oyster, love it! But, I do peel the asparagus,preferring the thick stems, seem to be more flavorful. I simply put them in a steam basked, and steam for a short time, not too long, Not mushy. When we eat them hot with dinner, a little olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, lemon and that's it. But what is really good to eat them at room temperature with the olive oil and fresh lemon dressing and salt and pepper,keep them crisp, eat them one stalk at a time. Throw your head back and lower the stalk into your mouth. Great on a picnic with procuitto, & bread and a nice bottle of wine!!

                    2. If my microwave died, I'd buy a new one if only to cook asparagus. Totally idiot-proof. Once I learned how well they did in the MW, I have never steamed them stovetop again. They come out perfectly - tip to end of the stalk every time regardless of the thickness.
                      What everyone has said about snapping them really works. They will break just where the woody part ends and the tender part begins.
                      Lay then in a MW-safe dish and cover it with plastic wrap. Add about 1 tablespoon of water. I MW about 3 minutes and let stand about 2 minutes before testing. Sometimes they need to be zapped again depending on the thickness or how many I'm cooking. You want them to bend slightly but still retain some crispness.
                      I even did them in my office in a ziplock bag when I didn't have a dish and it worked fine.
                      Drain them well and toss them with a little butter or olive oil. Remember that vinegar type sauces will dull their color if you dress them ahead of time so don't marinate them.
                      I love them roasted as well but you do have to watch them a little more carefully so that they don't dry out and get tough. And, no, you don't have to blanch them first.
                      With your menu, good Spring asparagus need nothing more than salt and pepper and your choice of butter or olive oil. You already have plenty of vinegar and cheese in other dishes.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        It's not like you need another one of these replies but I agree on roasting. Though make sure when you do go roast, really watch the amount of oil. When you put too much oil on asparagus, it gets really heavy and gross. It reminds me of eggplant where using too much oil will definately ruin it. Using a ziplock bag works (like MakingSense says) but I feel like it's a waste of a bag. Just drizzle a slight amount on the roastin pan and roll your aspargus, it doesn't need to be totally covered in oil.

                        1. re: digkv

                          I will agree that roasting is the way to go with asparagus.

                          But, every oven differs slightly, and I have overcooked asparagus before, and now set the timer for 12 min. to give a check on them, and if the spear end is getting dark green, then I take them out of the oven.

                          And, don't double up the bunches, they should lay flat in one layer on your roasting sheet.

                      2. Asparaagus wrapped in Prosciutto is very nice, easy and elegant. Here's two versions:



                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lexpatti

                          I hate to be the voice of dissent but roasting is only my second favorite method of cooking asparagus. My favorite way to prepare them is to trim them and toss gently with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet to high and lay the asparaugus in one layer (as much as you are able to). Turn the heat down to medium and turn frequently until they are a golden brown. They will lose the snap that you get from roasted asparagus but they pick up a delicious nutty flavor that my dinner guests always rave about.

                        2. You've all made me wonder: do people not like steamed/lightly boiled asparagus because of what they had as kids?

                          We had an asparagus patch in the 50s and 60s. Mom always tossed fresh young stalks into boiling salted water for one minute, shocked in ice water; and served with various dipping sauces. Asparagus was always al dente and very green. Yet, the few other people (other than other Japanese) who served asparagus always cooked it until it was tasteless, grey-green and, well, disgusting.

                          I would still say that flavor and texture is best (i.e., better than grilled) when properly blanched.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Sam, I'm as puzzled as you are. Everybody seems to be jumping on the recent roasted vegetable bandwagon, not just for asparagus, but for everything. Toss them in olive oil and shove them in the oven! And then saying it's THE way to cook them.
                            Unlike your Mom, Mama served those dreadful canned stalks which I never did like, but I learned to cook asparagus several ways years ago and love them lightly cooked as you suggest and roasted as well.
                            I think people really ought to at least try more than one way.
                            Although it won't go with the OP's menu, I love them as tempura as well. Lots of great ways to cook a very versatile vegetable beyond roasting.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Thanks, MS, I thought I was from a parallel universe as this thread has unfolded. And, I'm looking forward to trying the MW technique. I think it should be another perfect method.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                As a kid, the only asparagus served in my house were those gawdawful soggy things that came in a can. In fact, I thought "peasandcarrots" were a single product that also came from a can. I think my affinity for food as an adult began as a result of teenage rebellion -- a venture into the world of "real" food.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Yes, a VERY versatile vegetable. All of the preps in this thread are delicious.

                                  I am in the "minimalist prep" camp, only because, at heart, I am a minimalist. Blanch, then crunch/smack/smile, for fullest appreciation. But this vegetable is among the most ephemeral, quickly fading. It is only the advent of jet air transportation that has brought it to our tables at such peak of freshness, coupled with the southern hemisphere growers providing a doubling of the seasonal availability.

                                  Sam grew up in a family that had an asparagus bed. I grew up in a family that bought the canned Green Giant brand. Prior to roughly 1980, canned was the predominant method of bringing to market apart from the short spring season. Frozen spears began to show up as stores began to dedicate more space to freezers, again around 1980. The profusion of fresh-spears availability can track roughly to 1990, once the FedEx model of distribution was firmly established, and the Chilean farmers filled the seasonal gap.

                                  It's quite possible that, 100 years from now, when doctoral candidates attempt to analyze "what was the date of Peak Oil", they will turn to the data of the peak of fresh asparagus inter-hemispheric distribution.

                                  Mom used to proudly present baked canned asparagus: Two cans of Green Giant (ground transported, rather than air), slid into a baking dish, with grated cheese on top. I now do this once a year, in dutiful appreciation of "the way I had it as a kid", and promptly replace the cans with 2 new ones from the store, so that its presence in the pantry reminds me of her legacy.

                                  Support local asparagus farmers for the Spring ephemeral season. Tell them that you will buy the spears that they harvest Friday night for the Saturday market sale.

                                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  That is funny. I had the same thought as well, and I too was raised in a Japanese household.

                                  1. re: oranj

                                    get the thin asparagus , make a "packet" from aluminum foil (with a slit in the top) , put it all in with salt and pepper and butter (I use ghee), and then stick it on the grill or in the oven. Yum.

                                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    The more I read your posts, the more I think we must have had the same mom! I bet one of the most common dipping sauces was a mixture of shoyu and mayo, right?

                                    I've been roasting asparagus lately, mostly because I like the change of pace. Nothing fancy...just a drizzle of olive oil, some S&P, and into the oven at 400 for 12-14 minutes. Thicker stalks may need a bit more time, but thin stalks can sometimes be done in 10 minutes. I'll drizzle some kind of vinegar or another (balsamic, sherry, red wine, etc), just before serving.

                                    1. re: ricepad

                                      Hilarious! Shoyu and mayo; or mustard and mayo. But miso sauce for cold green beans!

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Thank goodness my mother would never have served canned asparagus! All spring long we ate lightly boiled asparagus with melted lemon butter and toasted sesame seeds...yum! Still my favorite sauce for asparagus and artichokes. She would save the woody stalks and make cream of asparagus soup but I'm afraid I'm not quite that thrifty, I just toss them.

                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I'm with Sam F.: blanch and shock. Although, then I'll usually make a composed salad by drying them, placing them on a nice butter lettuce and dressing lightly with homemade vinaigrette.

                                      1. re: Youffraita

                                        Youffraita, that mayo business was by ricepad's and my Moms'. I grate Parm-Reg, add some lime juice, stir: forms a great (smooth) sauce to drizzle over the asparagus. Try it.

                                    3. I'm in the roasting crowd. I don't peel them (not even the bottom parts, though I will concede sometimes the really thick stalks would benefit from it), and I toss them with a bit of olive oil and roast at 425 for anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes (maybe I like mine less done than others?). Then, my favorite way to serve them, though it may be too much with the rest of what you're serving, is to serve them with a light dressing made of 2 T of browned butter mixed with 2 t of soy sauce and 1 t of balsamic vinegar. I'd double that for two bunches of asparagus.

                                      Hope the potatoes turn out well!

                                      1. eat asparagus raw!
                                        they make for a great dipping vegetable with a myriad of flavorful dip possibilities
                                        toss in a salad
                                        take them to work as a change of pace for raw carrots/celery
                                        serve with shrimp cocktail, along with a spicy asian peanut sauce
                                        chop them up and blend with cream cheese for a unique bagel spread
                                        add to favorite cucumber salad recipe

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kleinfortlee


                                          I made the asparagus on a large heavy duty foil lined baking sheet, drizzled with EVOO and a couple of dashes of chili oil, red sea salt and pepper. Roasted in the oven and served with a lemon-garlic aioli. I don't have one spear left out of 4 lbs!

                                          Thanks, chows. I don't know where I would be without ya!

                                          p.s. The gratin was great! I love my new mandoline. I see many sliced/shredded things in my future!

                                        2. I guess I'm the only one crude enough to remind you that stinky pee is an inevitable consequence of each and every yummy preparation here :)

                                          1. Asparagus omelette, using either roasted or blanched asparagus.

                                            Roasted or blanched asparagus served with baked ham or ham steak, and boiled potatoes (new are my favourite) tossed in butter and chopped fresh dill.

                                            Asparagus loves mayonnaise. A loaf of good fresh bread to make roasted asparagus and mayo sandwiches (a good grind of black pepper is a nice addition). Roasted aparagus and ham sandwiches with mayo on dark Russian rye bread.

                                            1. How are you cooking the steaks?

                                              I'd blanch the asparagus breifly, flash in cold water to prevent overcooking, and toss with olive oil and finish on the grill / broiler for a few minutes (whichever you do the steaks on).

                                              Alternately, they would be fine in the salad you mentioned. Steam/Blanch them, cool, and either slice and toss in or drape whole on top of salad on salad plates.

                                              In the recipes section of CH, there is a very good recipe for a appetizer that uses grilled/roasted asparagus with a schmear of miso/sherry/butter sauce and tops it with a poached egg and cracked pepper. That would go great as well.

                                              Also, as an unsolicited side note - my other comment on your menu would be a suggestion to take either the craisins or the tomotoes out of your salad. My personal opinion is that the two dont go well together.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: andytee

                                                Hey, I like your first idea! That way, the 'gras picks up just a little of the flavor left over from the steaks!

                                              2. I'm going to go a different way here... "braise them" in a bit of butter, then stock. Try to end up with glazed asparragus. While these are cooking, heat a pan, drop some olive oil in and quickly sear some spanish chorizo slices. In the same oil, cook a few prawns. We used to serve with lobster american sauce.

                                                About the potato gratin... I love it old-school with loads of cream and no cheese.

                                                1. blanch some asparagus and dip them into poached egg yolks.

                                                  forks and knives aren't required - please use your fingers. very very delicious