Monday, July 11, 2011

Sautéed Asparagus

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Asparagus is one of my favorite side dishes to accompany any meat dish that is braised, roasted or baked. To me, it packs enough crunch but has a very unaffecting flavor that it stands out on its own and yet complements the dish you serve it with to maximum effect. Its mild bitterness actually acts like a palate cleanser in between bites and that I think is why this vegetable is one of my favorites. Of course, it has some downsides as well but it is more of a personal gripe about a certain person who loves this vegetable but I cannot fault the asparagus for something it did not do so we'll let it pass. 

There are certainly many ways to cook asparagus but I think the simplest way is to sauté it. I learned part of the cooking process from Michael Chiarello who uses this vegetable quite a bit especially when he roasts vegetables as a side dish. That is actually another recipe in the works right there. However, for now, let me share with you a simple way to cook asparagus. I tend to cook this very last minute off the sauté pan. So if I’m having multiple courses, I do the sautéing part prior to serving the main dish I’m pairing it with.

Sauteed Asparagus

2 lbs asparagus spears
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly crosswise
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

1. To prep the spears for cooking, take one end of the spear and with  
    your other hand, hold on to the middle part of the spear. Bend until  
    the spear breaks on its own at the weak spot. This will vary for  
    every spear but it will usually snap quite easily so no need to figure  
    out where this spot is. Discard the tough end (unless you want to use
    it to make a stock).

2. Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tbsp salt and drop  
    in the spears. Cook them for about a minute or two until they just
    turn bright green.

3. Take them out of the pot and shock them by dropping the spears  
    into an ice/water bath. This will stop the cooking process and  
    preserve the bright green color of the spears.

4. Once cooled, take out the spears, drain and dry on a paper towel  
    and set aside. If you are not cooking them straight away, store them
    in the fridge.

5. On a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the  
    garlic and slowly cook them until they turn a light golden brown  
    color. Add the red pepper flakes and the asparagus. Toss the spears  
    to coat them with oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook them  
    just until the spears are all warmed through, about 3-4 minutes. Add 
    the butter and toss them one last time. Serve right away.    

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