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How to cook perfect asparagus?

  • d

I thought I knew how to cook asparagus, but we ordered a simple asparagus appetizer at a restaurant last night and it was sublime. It was perfectly al dente, soft enough to bite into, firm enough to give a tiny bit of a snap. It was served chilled with what seemed to be a parmesan based vinaigrette. Now I'm on a mission to relearn how to cook asparagus properly. Any tips?

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  1. I put it in a frying pan, cover with cold water, add a little salt and bring to a boil. Test with a sharp knife. It's usually done ...

    Occasionally I peel, but not always.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      It was served chilled............

      From this comment the secret is to remove the vegetable from simmering salted water and shock the asparagus in an ice water bath once it reaches the desired bright green color. It's hard to give you a specific time due the the different thicknesses of available asparagus. i.e., thin or thick spears.

      Once the asparagus is cooled, drain and dry and you can prepare them anyway you wish with your favorite seasonings and/or dressings.

      1. re: fourunder

        Yes, true - I do that, or if I'm lazy, I put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes, or the fridge.

    2. It's far easier to serve asparagus in a chilled preparation, because when it's hot it cools so quickly like broccoli, and you are playing "beat the clock" with the rest of your dinner. Break the stems "where they want to break" and steam for 1 minute, 40 seconds. It is so much more versatile in cold salads. Example; with hearts of palm and thin strips of sweet red pepper, coddled on Boston lettuce, with fresh dill and mild honey-mustard dressing with macadamia pieces. And its utilitarian usefulness in "Oscar" and my personal "Felix" are boundless.
      Setting aside the "stinky pee" factor, such a wonderful vegetable! Plus the hot and cold soups- endless!

      1. Sometimes I blanch them and then shock them in an ice bath. Once you put them in the boiling water, it only takes like 2 or 3 minutes for them to cook.

        Then you could use them in a variety of ways.

        1. I like to broil mine in the oven with olive oil and kosher salt... I wish I could tell you how long, but I definitely do NOT like mine mushy, so I am sure it is just for a few minutes where they are still nice and green!

          On a related note, I just made Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Citronette a few days ago. It was DIVINE! It is the next to the bottom one on this page: http://thebittenword.typepad.com/theb...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Tehama

            15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. They are perfect, especially with a shaving of parm.

            1. re: rudmansjmu

              Heck yes. Maybe even hotter. I do parm and reduced balsamic drizzled on top.

          2. 1) Be picky - as in try to pick the bunch with them all closest to being the same thinness. Or be prepared to pick out the thickest/thinnest ones and cook accordingly.

            2) As others have said, if serving cold put them right into an ice bath,

            3) As Veggo says snap off the tough parts where they want to break. Thick ones may be peeled at the tough bottoms, but I prefer the thin ones and peeling is a PIA anyway.

            I prefer to oven roast these days. For salads you can chop first, ieaving the tips longer in an attempt to pretend the cooking times will equal the bottoms. EVOO, S&P, roast.

            1. I use the fatter stalked ones when I can find them. Snap off the woody ends and peel the lower half with a veggie peeler. Blanch and shock, quick toss in balsamic & olive oil, S&P then off to the grill for a quick finish. HTH

              1. I wash the stems, put in a dish where they all lay flat, sprinkle with lemon pepper mariande, cover with plastic wrap, and then microwave them. Usually a minute and a half is enough. Depends on the size. It is something you have to check. I find the microwave easier to control than steaming in an asparagus cooker.

                I also roast them in the oven like tehama.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Janet

                  Janet, hard to believe yours is the first post recommending microwaving. I always microwave asparagus if I want to serve them cold.

                  Trim the bottom ends, peel the stems just about up to where the tip starts, and lay them flat in a dish like Janet mentioned. No additional liquid is needed; cover tightly with microwave-safe plastic wrap and nuke em for a minute, test for doneness and nuke for an additional 30 seconds if necessary.

                  I don't shock them in cold water after the microwave, just remove the plastic, let them cool on the counter and then put them, covered, in the refrigerator to chill. Heavenly with home-made mayonnaise or aioli!

                2. My favorite method is grilling. I coat mine lightly in olive oil, put it in a grill basket, and grill over direct heat (medium) for about four minutes. The toasted flavor is wonderful. This is a particularly nice vinaigrette to serve with:

                  Grilled Asparagus with Peppercorn Vinaigrette

                  1. my family hated asparagus until we discovered roasting it in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper. now, it's probably one of the ten most-loved vegetables in the house. if you wanted them chilled, just roast them in the oven and refrigerate for a time in the fridge, then dress them however you like. personally, straight out of the oven is the way to go for me.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: beelzebozo

                      ditto here. sometimes I add freshly grated parm on the hot roasted asparagus, yum.

                      1. re: mcel215

                        That is the best thing in the whole world.

                        1. re: alysonlaurel

                          I concur. Better then candy. The first time my hubby did them for me on the grill (I do them under the broiler in winter) I couldn't believe it was only olive oil, salt and pepper on them!

                      2. re: beelzebozo

                        Asparagus is like heaven when ccoked like this. I'll make them for a snack, a side dish and sometimes I'll roast a couple, let them cool and throw them on top of a salad.

                        I will also toss them in while pasta is cooking for the last 2 minutes or so and then bake them the rest of the way in a casserole with the pasta, some ham and whole milk and chicken stock. Sprinkle a some bread crumb on the top and bake it for about 10 min or until the liquid is all bubbly. Lovely comfort dish.

                      3. Has anyone ever tried the 'slow cook' method in parchment paper? I have a recipe that calls for it to be wrapped in parchment paper and slow cooked in the oven at 275? or so for 2 hours. I have never tried it but would like to ----- maybe I should :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sarah galvin

                          I tried this last year and was underwhelmed; removed it from my repertoire.

                        2. We had an asparagus patch when I was growing up. We harvested thin, young stalks and cooked immediately. Veggo is spot on: gently snap the stalks, toss the tough ends in the boiling water, wait 35 seconds, toss the tender parts in and wait a minute (a bit more if you're using older stalks). Dash all in an ice water bath and then drain. The best parmesan sauce is made by grating the cheese and stirring in some lemon or lime juice--the cheese dissolves into a nice, perfect, creamy sauce.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Sam, I hope I can trust you on this.
                            The acidity in the lemon is enough to make the cheese dissolve into a creamy consistency? Does it need any heat at all?
                            We are talking about *aged* parmesan, right?

                            1. re: Cheese Boy

                              Yes. Any grated hard, aged cheese will dissolve nicely without heat. Try just a bit and see if you like it.

                          2. I never peel asparagus but do the bendy thing to snap off the tough end (keep them in the freezer for adding to stock/soup base)

                            Then briefly steam. Or, from time to time, griddle on a ridged pan so you get the char lines.

                            We are heavily into the season at present. Nothing finer than a few spears, melted organic (non-salted) butter, grind of pepper, sprinkling of Ynys Mon sea salt.

                            1. I cook asparagus all sorts of ways, but recently I'm really liking them baked in a hot oven (around 425 degrees) with salt, pepper, olive oil and most importantly, parmesan!

                              1. I have sucess with peeling 1st (starting about halfway down, continuing to the bottom) , then snapping off the bottom, that way a lot less of the bottom snaps off. (yes, peeling is a PITA, it's worth it for good asapargus!)

                                I do not care either way if they are thick or thin spears, but I do take time to make sure the tips are still tightly together, and I am getting a bunch with a uniform thickness.

                                As far as cooking, I like to steam for about 5-6 minutes, I lay it flat in a large stockpot over a steamer rack. I love it unadulterated, as it's my favorite veggie.

                                edited to fix typos

                                1. Nobody has mentioned the adding of bacon, onion or red pepper, so I have doubt they know how to make perfect asparagus.

                                  1. When I boil asparagus, I discard the tough end, snap the rest into two or three pieces.

                                    Boiling time varies with thickness, but I cook the fragile top part half as long as the rest.

                                    Put in the tougher parts - wait x minutes - put in the tops - wait x minutes again.


                                    1. I am usually cooking it to add to pasta, so I snap each spear (big mistake to follow the instructions I keep reading to snap one & cut the rest to match, since each one is different), and then cut into lengths on the bias. Pool of water in the bottom of an omelet pan, and I layer the lengths from the bottom of the spear on bottom, and the tips on top. Med heat, and when the water boils I stir the tips in. Test with a fork & drain ...

                                      PS Wrt choosing asparagus, it's most important to me to have fresh, tightly closed tips--you def don't want flowering. If I have more choices (this time of year my grocery store usually has about 3 types of asparagus), I prefer the stems medium thick.

                                      1. BTW, where you are is the most easily available asparagus green or white?

                                        I know in some parts of the world the white is most prized but I think our green has a better taste. More asparagus-y

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Harters

                                          I agree, much prefer the green ...

                                        2. Though I was raised in a "end snapping" house but have discovered that peeling works just fine unless the asparagus has been in the fridge too long. Plus, the youngest pup loves to use the veggie peeler so everybody's happy. I often find that the thinest stalks are consumed raw by my able peeling assistant.

                                          In our house, we boil and blanch or we roast in the oven with olive oil and salt. Set oven at 375 and just keep an eye on it.

                                          No one is into sauces--interferes with eatting with your fingers. No one is into the idea of me trying new recipes that combine asparagus with pasta or the like. They just want it cooled off in the pan ready to be grabbed and consumed.

                                          I confess, I hope asparagus season ends soon. We have 3 pups--two of whom could eat their weight in asparagus in a single meal. Add me and the husband to the mix with local organic stuff at $3 [if I make it to the farmer's market] to $5 [if I hit the coop] a pound and you get one hefty asparagus bill!

                                          1. It's been a terrible asparagus season on the west coast. Cold snap kayoed the local harvest and something bad must have happened in Washington as well. Still, I have gotten some. I either steam.(Getting it just right is difficult) or salt, oil and throw on the fish grate on the barbecue. Naked or with aioli when steamed.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: EdwardAdams

                                              Edward, try microwaving next time you want to steam - getting asparagus just right in the microwave is not difficult, and I like that it cooks perfectly with no added water. See my post above, or sarah galvin's.

                                              1. re: janniecooks

                                                Have you done them in parchment paper in a slow oven?

                                                1. re: sarah galvin

                                                  Yes, I have tried that and I was underwhelmed by the result. Flavor so so, and even though it's not a lot of effort, running the oven for several hours to cook asparagus is ridiculous to me. Maybe in a commercial kitchen where their ovens are always on, it might make sense. I think the parchment-in-a-slow-oven is one of those chef's recipes that just don't make sense for the home. Besides I prefer the crisp texture and sharp asaparaus flavor that comes from a quick steam (in water or by nuking them) or from a quick roast in a hot ove.