Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Skillet Asparagus

Fresh asparagus prepared by butter steaming in a skillet.

How to Prepare Asparagus

I have been a huge fan of fresh asparagus for years and love it just about any way that you can cook it - steamed, blanched, stir fried, grilled, roasted - the marinated bacon wrapped version is mighty delicious and a favorite of mine too.


It's a spring crop, mostly coming to us in the Deep South from the west coast, and is at its peak for flavor during the months of April and May, so it is still so strange to me that we can find it available year-round these days.

I can remember a time when the only way to eat it out of season was canned, but the texture of canned asparagus is on the mushy side, very different from fresh and a tad bit pricey too. Mama used to treat herself to the occasional can as a treat, and I can still envision her lifting a cold spear right out of the can, dangling it in the air and dropping it into her mouth with a silly smirk of satisfaction, as if it were some kind of a decadent, gourmet delicacy! I suppose on her very limited grocery budget it was.

It's still available in the can of course, though these days most often delegated to those old fashioned, nostalgic casseroles and bakes that some of us still remember from our youth... recipes that most of the younger folks today don't even know about!

Always choose fresh asparagus that is smooth in texture, bright green and firm, with tightly closed tips. To store them, I always place them standing up in a tall mug with about one inch of water in the bottom, like a bouquet of flowers. Place the produce bag loosely over the top and store in the fridge. Change the water out daily, and if you happen to not get to them right away, they will stay nice and fresh for several days and even up to a week.

You'll see some asparagus spears that are very thick and others that are very thin. This doesn't make much difference to be honest, though the very thick ones can tend to be a bit tough and will sometimes benefit from taking a vegetable peeler to them. You'll always need to trim off the woody ends because they are stringy and inedible, though they can be reserved to add to a homemade vegetable stock. If you bend the asparagus toward the bottom of the stalk, it will naturally snap where they need to be trimmed, though most of the time, I simply trim off about the bottom quarter of the stalk, then rinse them.


I prepare asparagus several different ways and like many of you, one of my favorites is oven roasted, and it's so easy too! Simply toss the trimmed asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. For the thick spears, I roast them in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender. For thinner spears reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F and they are usually done in about 8 to 10 minutes.

To grill them, season in the same manner, but use a grill pan, thread them on skewers in groupings of 5 or 6, or lay them crosswise against the oiled grates and cook over a medium high, direct heat for about 4 minutes per side, turning once, or until tender, again, adjusting for time if the spears are thin.

To steam, place the trimmed asparagus in a single layer in the top of a steamer basket that has been placed over a pot containing about an inch of boiling water. Cover and check them for tenderness at about 5 minutes, using the pointed tip of a sharp knife. Finish them with salt, pepper and melted butter, or a vinaigrette of some kind. Steaming works best with the thicker stalks of asparagus.

Hands-down, this "butter steamed" method is my favorite and the one I use the most now. The process is similar to my butter stewed new potatoes, and it really does a fantastic job with asparagus, simply seasoned with butter, salt and pepper, letting all the natural flavor of the asparagus shine through.


Sometimes I use garlic salt and I almost always grate some fresh Parmesan all over the top when I take them out of the skillet.

You may have noticed a white asparagus in the grocery store before. Don't fall for it. They aren't widely available and frankly expensive, mostly appealing as a novelty to restaurants really, rather than the home cook. The only difference between the green and white asparagus is that white are grown in darkness to make them colorless, but they do taste pretty much the same otherwise.

I decided to plate these for photos on my vintage 1970s "Crazy Daisy Spring Blossom" Corelle platter. Can you believe that I have had this platter since I was a teenager,which trust me... was a long time ago. It, along with a set of the dishes, was an addition to my hope chest. Anybody remember those?


Back in my day, while many of us went on to college, the goal for many women still was to meet a good man, marry, have a beautiful wedding, and have babies - and yes, unlike today, in that order. Most of us started building what we called hope chests when we were young, whether they were actual physical Lane cedar chests, or just an area in the top of a closet designated for purchases that would one day furnish our future residences. Mine was more designated as a "my first apartment" hope chest, because I was one of those "I can't wait to turn 18 and move out" teens, although in truth, I did end up marrying very young and having that baby in my 20s anyway. The upside of that is that I am a fairly young grandma!

Asparagus is great as a side dish, tossed in a skillet meal or in casseroles, on a salad, and even in an omelet. What is your favorite way to enjoy them?



Recipe: Skillet Asparagus

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Cook time: 8 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of fresh asparagus spears
  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste, optional
Instructions

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus where they bend naturally; rinse. Melt butter in a large lidded skillet over medium heat and lay whole asparagus spears in the skillet. Gently shake the pan to coat all of the spears with butter, cover, reduce to medium low and let cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan several times. Uncover, test for tenderness with the tip of a steak knife, season with salt and pepper, transfer to serving platter and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top. Serve immediately.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

Cook's Note: Total cooking time will be dependent on the size and thickness of the asparagus spears. This recipe may successfully be halved. Try garlic salt in place of kosher salt.

Tip: Snap off the ends of several pieces of asparagus where they naturally break, then line up the remaining asparagus in groups and use a knife to trim them evenly with the ones you snapped.

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Posted by on April 16, 2014
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20 comments:

  1. I have both of your recipe books! I wish they were signed but I ordered them off your website.
    I so enjoyed your story of your Mom eating the asparagus from the can because I have the same exact memory of my Ma Ma doing the same exact thing and now I do it too, eating the asparagus right out of the can!
    I am originally from Picayune, MS and as you know we are very close to the Gulf Coast. My grandmother lived in Pascagoula when I was young and it was an adventure for us to go visit her near the water! What precious memories I have of her going crabbing and eating her boiled shrimp which to a young girl from a large family was a delicacy! I so enjoy your stories associated with your recipes more than I can say!
    Thank you for bringing alive the Mississippi Gulf Coast history and legacies so we who remember them can reminisce and enjoy our heritage of the South and Mississippi.

    Patty Padgett Poston
    Broken Arrow, OKhttps://www.facebook.com/connie.dickinson3/posts/10203629140233439

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Peggy!! Thanks so much for your sweet comments. It really means a lot when somebody shares their heart with me & lets me know that my rambling here on the site helps to revive memories from the past. Thank you.

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  2. I remember eating asparagus straight from the can also...and the yucky creamed asparagus that came after. My favorite is grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

    Your hope chest story made me chuckle. I have a cedar chest that my late grandfather made me some 30 years ago. It is priceless to me and filled with relics from mine and my childrens' growing up years--but my husband hates it! To him, it's an eyesore and he promises that if I die before him the first phone call he will make is to my best friend to tell her to come get that cedar chest!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. My Mama sure loved that stuff in the can! As to your husband, some folks just aren't that sentimental I guess so they don't get those of us who are, but I'm with you - that's a priceless treasure!!

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  3. I love asparagus and can eat a whole can at one sitting. But - fresh grilled or oven roasted topped off with sliced almonds near the end of cooking is my favorite way to eat them!

    My hope chest was quite large by the time I married the man of my dreams. We dated for 4 years before getting married. I had just started the 9th grade and we agreed not to marry until after I graduated the 12th grade. I studied hard to be sure it happened! I have been happily married to that same wonderful man for 36 years this September!! Still using things from that hope chest!

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    1. You sound like my Mama Kim!! That is so awesome that you are your true love are still together and happily married all these many years later - congratulations and many many more!!

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  4. I only started eating asparagus several years ago. Now we have it regularly. I like the roasted ones best but most of the time I steam them.
    I started dating my husband when I was 16 & he almost 17. He bought me a Lane hope chest & I filled it so that when we married at 19 I had a lot of household items to use for our apartment (which was $65/month back in 1968). We will have been married 46 years in June & still love each other just as much as ever. We have 3 grown children & 4 grandchildren & one great-granddaughter. We are blessed & both retired now. I worked over 35 years as an RN.

    Don't know why I rambled on about my married life but I also wanted to say I still use several pieces of Corelle which I bought in 1979.

    Have a blessed Easter, Mary.

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    Replies
    1. Oh goodness Tricia - what a wonderful story and another long marriage too! Maybe there is a connection with those hope chests?!

      My first house after my husband and I married had a house note of $149 - mortgage, taxes & insurance - and I do remember it was tough meeting that every month!

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    2. I still use my Corelle as my everyday dishes and still love it like it was new!

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    3. I'm not sure about the newer pieces, but I swear those older ones are practically non-destructible! Mine moved around with me over the years and despite not so great packing, survived!

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  5. Growing up my grandmother and step father ALWAYS had to have a few cans cold in the refrigerator. They both loved the cold spears dipped in Hellman's Best. They'd squeeze some fresh lemon juice in the mayonnaise if they were feeling fancy. I can't judge, I happily devour canned beets.

    Not only do you share wonderful recipes you also evoke the most wonderful food memories. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and generosity.

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  6. Where are these recipe books of yours that the first poster (Patty) commented on? I didn't see anything on the home page and thought you had yet to write a recipe book.......

    Anyway, once again you read my mind (or fridge). I bought some asparagus yesterday and was looking for a new way to make it, and look what your new entry is. Never done the "butter steamed" before. I usually either steam it (and then add butter or not) or coat it with olive oil and sliced thin garlic and roast it in either the oven or the green egg with some grated Parmesan.

    The bacon wrapped looks awesome as well. Thanks for the update on the white asparagus, I've been eyeballin' it and had just about talked myself into the high price just once to see what it tastes like. Now I don't need to.

    Emugg

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    Replies
    1. No, you are correct - no recipe books. :) I just assumed she was thinking of somebody else. Some day!!

      Can't wait to hear what you think of this method!

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  7. I'll take asparagus anyway I can get them & straight out of a can works as well as an upscale recipe, I just love 'em!!
    Really enjoyed your comments as I could identify! Thanks for the asparagus storage tip - i will use that one for sure!!
    Love your blog! It has surely expanded my repertoire! Also, I am now a faithful user of "Slap ya Mama" & i had never heard of it before, who knew?? Looking forward to your next posting!

    maureen

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    1. Isn't that seasoning just so good? Now you know why I love it so much!

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  8. I love to eat asparagus chilled. Put the spears in a shallow bowl and pour some Italian dressing over them. Give them a day and they are delicious. Sliced sweet onions are a welcome addition.

    When I find asparagus for $1.99 per pound, I stock up. Blanch the spears (no more than 3 minutes) and put into a freezer bag. Squeeze out all of the air before sealing. We have some Aldi stores here and their produce prices are amazingly low but Albertson's sometimes have good prices in their 3 day sale section. .

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    Replies
    1. Oh yeah, love the marinated cold asparagus too - need to include that one! Thanks for the tips too!

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  9. I would like to send you a unique recipe that I created to make bread pudding. Is there a place on the website to do that?

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    1. Hi Jordan! I am always open to receiving new recipes from our family of readers here - just email it to me at mary@deepsouthdish.com and be sure to include the word recipe and the recipe name in the subject line. I get a lot of mail and that helps it to stand out from the rest!

      Delete

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