Asparagus is one of the most mistreated of all vegetables. Like the brussels sprout, if you show it some love and a little tenderness, what you get is pure heaven for your taste buds. Once you master the basics of grilling and steaming, I urge you to step up your culinary game and try wrapping asparagus in panchetta or using those skinny stalks as the base of a soup or salad.
However you choose to use them, follow the basics of this article below for perfectly crunch results every time.
How to select:
You want to look for a few key qualities:
1. Very thin to fairly thin in diameter: My ideal asparagus is the same thickness as a pencil, but these aren’t always available.
2. Tight, compact heads
3. Firm, unwrinkled stalks
How to store:
Unless you’re going to eat them immediately after you get home, you’re going to need to store your asparagus. You should treat your asparagus like a bouquet of flowers. Chop 1/2 inch off the ends and place the entire bunch in a glass with a little water in the bottom. Take a quart-sized ziplock and invert it over the top and store in the fridge. Your asparagus will stay fresher longer.
How to prepare:
Hold your asparagus with both hands, about two inches from the tip and the end. You can chant softly if you want. Gently bend the asparagus… …until it snaps. You have reached asparagus enlightenment. You see, it will naturally break at a point of resistance, and that point is where the stem is too tough to be enjoyable. Do this for all your asparagus.
If you bought asparagus that may be a little too thick, or you feel like being super fancy, you can peel your asparagus. It’ll take some of the stringy-ness away, but I’ve seen fancy restaurants do this even with perfectly thin asparagus. Use a vegetable peeler and peel from tip to stem, being careful not to pass over the same spot twice. You can end up with pretty sad looking asparagus if you peel them too much.
How to cook:
Now you’re ready to cook. How? There are a bunch of ways. You can grill, saute, roast, boil, or steam, to name a few. Steaming is one of the more popular ways, but I prefer to boil mine in a shallow pan of water. Asparagus can go from DONE! to WHOA! OVERDONE! fairly quickly, so I like to be able to see it and poke it as much as I want when I’m cooking it – it’s harder to do that in my all-metal steamer. And to be fair, my mother also cooked asparagus in a pan of shallow water, so I’m not surprised that it’s my default method. Experiment and see what works for you.
Below is a simple recipe for asparagus, but there are really so many tasty ways to enjoy this vegetable. If you need a place to start, this is a good one, but definitely explore other ways of cooking it. Roasting and grilling especially. Yum.