How to Make Asparagus

February 24, 2012

We live a ten minute drive from acres and acres of farmland dedicated to fresh produce, so our local farmer’s markets are embarrassingly good. Asparagus is typically $2 to $3 a bunch, and has that wild, fresh-out-of-the-ground taste.   I know lots of people put cheese or hollandaise sauce all over their asparagus, and only eat the tips as the stalk is fibrous and ropy when badly cooked.   Well it need not be inedible and disguised with cheese sauce. Asparagus is easy to do perfectly.   And you don’t have to buy one of those stand up special steamers at Williams Sonoma, either (unless you are just trying to get one of those offbeat wedding gifts for a cousin).

You do have to trim the stalks, and you do this by holding a spear in two hands and bending to see where it will naturally break.   Snap it off and you have taken off the tough end.  If you want to even up your bundle of ends so they do not look ragged, trim them a touch with your kitchen knife.    I would clean ’em up for a guest but for just us – meh.   You’ll place the stalks in a flat saute pan with very little water, half an inch at most.

In the pan, waiting for the water to boil. Note the ragged, "no guests tonight" ends.

When it boils, cover with a tight lid.    Cook for about 3 minutes,  Seriously.   You have a little wiggle room on this but don’t forget about them, or you will be eating the tips only.

Perfectly bright green. The interior should look whitish as in this photo.

Take them right out of the water and serve.  If planned as a cold course, put them on a plate in the fridge.  Just before serving, drizzle olive oil, fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt over them.     This same technique makes perfect green beans, as well, with a slightly longer and more forgiving cooking time.   I have gotten a lot of asparagus haters to enjoy them, without even mentioning the ancients’ belief that they had aphrodisiacal properties.