June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
This is high season for asparagus, and because we have 1000 crowns (=plants), we eat it a lot, on top of what I freeze. Yes, you can freeze asparagus in Ziploc bags after steaming it for 3 min. To this end, I like to cut my asparagus into one-inch-long pieces first, and dump it in ice water immediately after steaming to stop the cooking. Unless you are opposed to plastic, in which case you are on your own. If a mention of Ziploc causes a well-up of environmental indignation in your Earth-loving heart, I can’t help you.
Because, with a few exceptions, we are fairly committed to eating seasonal foods, I don’t mind serving asparagus with supper just about every day. This is facilitated by the fact that asparagus is also one of my favorite green vegetables, and, aside from eating it plain as a side dish, I also enjoy cream of asparagus soup and love adding inch-long pieces to my Bolognese sauce.
Whichever way you spin it, the important thing about asparagus is that you don’t ever want to overcook it, which will not only make it unpleasantly soft and unappealingly wilted-green, but also cause it to develop a bitter off-taste. I, therefore, like to cook it until it’s still somewhat al-dente (but already kinda tender), at which point the asparagus still tastes sweet. Since we grow it here and deal with stalks of every different thickness, I don’t really time it but rely on a fork to test it for doneness – you want the fork to slip in with just a little resistance. In any case, we are talking the matter of minutes.
Note also that, unlike some other things, asparagus is particularly sensitive to freshness, and it makes a difference how long ago it was harvested. For that reason, a friendly farm stand might be your best bet.
As you have probably deduced from the title of this post, asparagus is also good grilled. Because this time of the year I use my grill a lot, it’s very convenient to grill it after you are done grilling your meat, most of which needs to rest for 5-10 min anyway in order for the juices to re-distribute. This amount of time is entirely sufficient to get your asparagus just right.
So what you gotta do is this: take your asparagus and bend each stalk close to the bottom. The stalk will snap easily, thus removing the tough, woody bottom part. If the stalk doesn’t snap where you’ve bent it, try bending it higher up the stem – it will eventually snap at some point. The asparagus is now ready for grilling or steaming.
You want your charcoal still glowing but already covered with a layer of gray ash. Distribute your asparagus over the grate kind of like so. The heat will naturally be higher in the center and lower towards the outside, but that’s grilling for ya. I am OK with that.
Note that many recipes suggest to toss the asparagus with oil first, but I don’t. I oil the grill grate instead (I oil it before I put on the meat and don’t re-apply a coat of oil b/w taking the meat off and putting the asparagus on). Personally, I don’t think it needs any extra fat at that point, and the oiled hot grate prevents it from sticking. Try it both ways, if you want, and then come back and tell me if it made a difference.
Now stand over it and turn the stalks with a pair of tongs as soon as they begin to char a bit and start to look appealingly shriveled. This will take a few minutes, depending on how hot your grill is at that particular point, the weather, the disposition of the gods, and other factors outside your control. Some people try really hard to sear each side, but I think doing it on two sides is plenty.
Remove it from grill when it looks kind of like so, although this is perhaps a bit more charred than necessary. I don’t mind charring, personally. That’s grilling for ya. Did I say that before? If you are not comfortable eating charred foods, I am not sure we can be friends. Just kidding! We can still be friends! Just don’t come over when I’m grilling.
The final touch: Both grilled and steamed asparagus is especially nice served with Ina Garten’s homemade blender Holandaise sauce (I’ll share a recipe with you soon, or go ahead and google it if you just can’t wait). Now that’s high-class cuisine. That’s what my blog is all about, right?