Fresh asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. Not only are asparagus delicious, their appearance signals that the seasons are finally changing. They herald the beginning of Spring. Warmer weather is on the way.
Whereas imported asparagus is available year-round, the stalks of a tender, freshly-picked asparagus offer a flavor far more sublime than the out-of-season variety.
When buying asparagus, look for firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips. The ends of asparagus spears tend to be tough and woody. To trim, simply bend each stalk and it will naturally break off in just the right spot.
I think aparagus are best when they are simply prepared. I cook them in salted water just until they are vibrant green yet still crisp tender. I then drizzle them with butter that has been slightly browned to give it a nutty flavor.
Asparagus with Browned Butter
Brown butter is one of my signature cooking “tricks.” I use it to season vegetables, as a sauce for roasted fish, and have even drizzled it into cake batter. The classic French term for this cooking technique is beurre noisette, which literally translates to “hazelnut butter.” By slightly browning the butter, you give it a delicious nutty flavor. Be careful though, this sauce is ready the moment it starts to brown. If you overcook it, it will taste burnt.
1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, tough woody ends snapped off and discarded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Over high heat, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until vibrant green and crisp tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain the asparagus. Set aside.
Wipe the pot dry. Add the butter and over medium-high heat, cook, swirling the pot occasionally, until the butter stops foaming and begins to brown. Remove from the heat. Add the asparagus and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Do-Ahead: The process of par-cooking a vegetable in boiling salted water is called blanching. Blanching prevents the vegetable from being over-cooked when reheated, or in this case, tossed with the brown butter. You can use this same technique to cook vegetables in advance. When you drain the blanched vegetable, immediately immerse it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain again and refrigerate until ready to serve.