Post 256

All About Asparagus: A Recipe for April

At even some of the best restaurants, vegetables are treated as rather unimportant. Sure, you’ll receive them cut into interesting shapes, but often they’re just steamed. Don’t get me wrong — steaming has its place, but some techniques really take veggies to another level.

This is from the cookbook The Best Vegetable Recipes, put out by America’s Test Kitchen. I am choosing asparagus because it’s the season for them and because the word ‘asparagus’ begins with the letter “A,” just like the month of April. Asparagus is often viewed as rather deluxe. Emperor Augustus is responsible for the phrase, “faster than cooking asparagus,” which I did not even know was a phrase. Another fun fact comes from Wikipedia: “A recipe for cooking asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third-century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.” Asparagus grows well in salty soil, but it can take a very long time (years) to get them set up properly.

I like broiling my asparagus because it’s quick and easy, but most of all, it’s tasty:

Another cooking option, and one that most cooks don’t consider, is grilling or broiling. The intense dry heat concentrates the flavor of the asparagus, and the exterior caramelization makes the spears especially sweet. The result is asparagus with a heightened and, we think, delicious flavor.

And here’s even more, specifically about broiling them:

The two primary questions related to broiling concerned the thickness of the stalks and the distance they should be kept from the heat source as they cook. In our tests with thicker asparagus, anywhere from 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter, the peels began to char before the interior of the spears became fully tender. When we used thinner spears (no thicker than 5/8 inch), the interior was tender by the time the exterior was brown.

We then focused on how far to keep the spears from the heating element. At 3 inches, the asparagus charred a bit. At 5 inches, the asparagus took a little too long to cook, and they failed to caramelize properly. The middle ground, 4 inches, proved perfect for cooking speed, control and browning.

And more:

Grilled and broiled asparagus should be lightly oiled before cooking — use extra-virgin olive oil for the most flavor. After cooking, grilled and broiled asparagus can be tossed or drizzled with a viniagrette for even more flavor.

And here’s the recipe itself:

Master Recipe for Broiled Asparagus

Choose asparagus no thicker than 5/8 inch.

2 pounds thin asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the uppermost position (about 4 inches from the heating element) and heat the broiler. Toss the asparagus with the oil and salt to taste and then lay spears in a single layer on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Broil, shaking the pan halfway through to turn the spears, until the asparagus is tender and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the asparagus 5 minutes and arrange them on a serving platter.

The accompanying recipes are variations. There’s “Broiled Asparagus with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette and Parmesan” and “Broiled Asparagus with Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette” and “Broiled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Mascarpone,” but I’m done with retyping.

Besides, you know I like to keep my posts short.