For a long time, cooking asparagus any way other than the very simplest seemed like gilding the spear to me. Blanching it in boiling water for just a few minutes until just tender and bright green like a spring dream, then eating it as soon as possible — what could be better than this?
If you’re going to eat all the local asparagus you can while you are on this earth — which you should — there’s plenty of time to try it different ways.
The customizable approach here came about by way of messing around with a New York Times recipe for Butter-Braised Asparagus by David Tanis — his involves chives, parsley or chervil, tarragon and optional dill. But the chives may be substituted at will with shallot, green onion, spring onion, ramps or leeks; garlic seems too forceful in this application to me, but hey, do what you feel.
Buttery Braised Asparagus With Fresh Herbs
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
6 tablespoons salted butter
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon snipped-to- 1/8-inch chives — or use your allium of choice, such as green onion, spring onion, ramps, shallot … (but maybe not our forceful friend garlic)
3 tablespoons chopped mint — or use fresh soft herb(s) of your choice, such as parsley, tarragon, marjoram, chervil or dill (but maybe not, you know, cilantro)
1-plus tablespoons pine nuts, toasted until nicely browned — optional but nice
Rinse your asparagus spears in cool water, and snap off the tough ends — bend them toward the bottom, and they’ll break at the right spot.
Put the butter in a large skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. When butter is melted, add asparagus, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup water, cover and simmer. Check it right at 3 minutes: You want your spears bright green, quite firm but getting tender, and they will keep cooking a little once the heat is off. Shift them around, and cook another minute or two as needed for fatter spears. Move the asparagus to a serving platter, reserving the stuff in the pan.
Turn the heat to high; add your chives/alternate choice; and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you get a saucy consistency. Add lemon juice and zest, turn off heat and stir in most of your fresh herb(s), saving a bit for garnishing.
Taste and add salt and/or pepper, and/or a squeeze of lemon, to your liking. Pour the sauce over the asparagus, sprinkle with extra herb(s) and the pine nuts, if you’ve got them, and enjoy. Serves 2-4 depending on asparagus appeti
Tribune News Service