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Skillet Asparagus

I got about a kilo of thin asparagus and was looking for a way to cook them when I came upon Edna Lewis' method in Saveur on line. Essentially, you wash and trim asparagus and put them in a skillet with some butter, turn the asparagus to coat them all, and cook until done adding only salt and pepper. I usually blanch my asparagus, but I have to say that this was truly simple and very delicious.

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  1. Interesting. How high do you put the heat? I'd be afraid the butter would burn long before the spears were done. In our house we usually trim (if thick enough) the spears, toss in some olive oil and roast for a couple minutes in a high oven.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nstoddar

      The heat was medium and the butter did not burn. I used a cast iron skillet. Here's the link to the piece in Saveur, which I meant to put up before:

      1. re: roxlet

        Ah, so you're covering the asparagus. I guess that explains why they cook before the butter burns.

        1. re: nstoddar

          Right. For some reason, this really seems to intensify the flavor.

          1. re: nstoddar

            I use a 50/50-ish mix of butter and olive oil when I cook asparagus this way, and I find no need to cover. It keeps the butter from burning and it's just as tasty.

      2. Try washing and drying the asparagus, drizzling olive oil over it, putting it in a paper bag and folding it over to close it. Drizzling more oil on the bag and putting it in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes (longer or shorter, however done you like it)

        1. I do essentially the same thing. I get the pan pretty hot, put the butter/olive oil in the pan, the asparagus and then about 1/4 cup of dry vermouth and cover the pan for about 3 - 5 minutes until they're tender, lift the lid until all the moisture is gone, s/p and serve.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John E.

            I usually do this with 1/4 cup or so of water and no oil or oil (adding that after, if I want it), but I'm going to try it with vermouth. I like that idea, thanks.

          2. I've always cooked asparagus in a bit of olive oil or olive oil/butter. Use medium high heat, toss in some chopped or sliced garlic and add washed and trimmed asparagus spears, salt and pepper. Toss once or twice using tongs. Takes 5 minutes at most to cook; no need to cover. Tender and slightly crisp. Delicious.

            1. I was feeling somewhat underinspired last night and had some nice asparagus I wanted to cook - I trimmed it, put it wet into a rectanglar plastic box witth a lid (Chinese food takeout container), and microwaved it on high for a minute, shook the box and let it go for another minute. With just a shake of salt it was scrummy. Would have put butter on it but the rest of the meal was rather rich. Look Ma, no calories!

              2 Replies
              1. re: buttertart

                Note to transatlantic friend.......butter when used with asparagus has no calories. It's a scientific fact.

                Going to try the microwave. We've been looking at other ways to cook, other than steam or boil. Sort of like char-grilling but it's a fine line between adding the char taste and it overpowering the taste of the "grass"

                1. re: Harters

                  Calories weren't (can't say aren't ever, but are relatively seldom) the issue, richness was (the main was pasta with ground veal in heavy cream and saffron). You really should try this, it worked extremely well and the taste was very intense, not watered down in the least.

              2. I prefer thin asparagus, and I of course snap off the fibrous bottom third before cooking.

                Method of preparation is to bring roughly 1/2 inch of water to a medium boil in a cast iron skillet. Add roughly 1 T. butter and 1 t. each of dried rosemary and basil. Dump in the asparagus and braise approximately seven minutes. Drain and season lightly with salt.

                1. I've cooked asparagus this way, sometimes whole and sometimes with stir fry. It is very delcious, and you don't overcook them. I like to add a little fresh garlic too, then if they aren't part of a stir fry, then squeeze lemon juice over them. Really nice.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Honestly, I may as well not even be aware of another way to cook asparagus. It's so simple to just toss them in the pan and pull them right back out, you know?

                    I use lemon juice to finish, along with some shaved parm and, if I'm feeling particularly motivated, some toasted almonds. Like many simple dishes, this one really impresses people (and I'm always a bit embarrassed to admit how easy it is to make, heh).

                    1. re: nickblesch

                      sure parm is good, sounds like beginning of beautiful pasta dish. Some cherry tomatoes, white wine, some fresh cracked pepper and a little pasta. geez.
                      Asparagus has many options other than smearing it with mayo and of course, I have nothing against that either.

                  2. i think thick asparagus gets a needlessly broad bad reputation. some thick asparagus is intolerably woody--for sure--but some leggy thin asparagus is too. i very much enjoy very young, but thick, spears. these are sometimes very short--maybe thumb sized--but very good when young and garden fresh. i think--but am not sure--that the spears i like are the immature green products of very mature roots.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: silverhawk

                      My DH only likes the thick kind. I like all kinds and I particularly liked the ones that I made in the skillet since they almost looked like wild asparagus to me, although I am sure they weren't. They had something weedy about them, if you know what I mean. Just give me good, fresh asparagus, thick or thin. I love both.

                      1. re: silverhawk

                        I prefer thicker asparagus for roasting or grilling.
                        With really thin asparagus, I usually just saute w/oil or butter, as OP suggests. I also find microwaving them w/a tiny bit of water works very well, but I have overcooked them that way a couple of times.

                        1. re: silverhawk

                          I love the thick spears. In our house we trim them with a paring knife and cut off the bottom inch or so, and everything's fine. I don't think I've ever ran across an overly-woody spear after being trimmed.

                        2. Yep that works well. If they were thicker, you could also try steam saute which is putting them in a skillet with water and butter. covering the pan and turning up the heat to cause the water to boil. Steam them for 3-5 minutes. Take the lid off and evaporate the water leaving only the butter to saute them. You could add almonds and garlic for a nice change.

                          You could also roast them. Put olive oil and salt and pepper on them in a cookie pan or jelly roll pan. Throw them in the oven at 350 to 400 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes. That is very good.

                          1. A friend of mine used to harvest wild asparagus along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, skillet braise it, and then drizzle chile con queso over the top. I've never tried this, but it does sound fabulous.