PREPARING AND COOKING WHITE ASPARAGUS
Although I rarely see white asparagus when out and about, I saw these while shopping at the West Side Market a few days ago. Two bunches for five dollars! Great price. I asked the vendor the best way to cook them and he said, “grill them – that’s the best way – just olive oil – put olive oil on them – grill them and they’re great – the best way”. He further said, “don’t knock them around in the bag – they break easy”.
He was right about the breakage – a few broke in the bag. I just ate those raw – and are they ever good raw – almost juicy! Whereas raw green asparagus tips are more tender than the stalks, raw white asparagus are just the opposite – the stalks are more tender than the tips – still good though.
I would definitely recommend them raw in a salad.
I seem to recall cooking white asparagus years ago in the Pacific Northwest, but didn’t recall how I prepared them, so decided to Google it. Martha Stewart, working with another chef, basically said that the best way was to boil them, tied in a bundle, standing up, and that you really couldn’t over-cook them, but about 30 minutes is what it takes. In checking a few more places on Google, everybody essentially said the same.
I didn’t want to do the string thing, so decided to prep, cut and boil in a skillet of water.
White asparagus needs to be peeled if you’re cooking them. If served raw, and you want a better appearance, then peel, but I didn’t find it necessary when eating them raw.
Break each stalk in half and discard the lower half of the stalks, or you can use the lower half to make a drinkable broth for yourself.
Using a potato peeler, start from just below the tip and peel to the end all round the asparagus.
I cut each remaining stalk in half and boiled them in water, uncovered, till fork tender. It took about 30 minutes. But depending on the size, cooking time will vary.
Drain gently, since they’re fragile.
To serve. What I did was melt some margarine in a skillet. I sprinkled a little ground fennel seed, cardamom, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. I added about 10 red grape tomatoes cut in half, stirred till hot, then removed from heat.
Next, I placed drained, cooked asparagus in bowl, poured melted margarine and tomatoes over asparagus, tossed gently and plated.
One bunch could serve 1 if you want to eat them all yourself, or up to 4 as a side dish.
Very delicate texture and flavors. Although most people recommended drizzling with fresh lemon, I went the tomato route for the acid taste and it worked well.
So now I have 1 bunch left. I returned to the recommendation of the vendor I bought them from – grilling.
I prepped as before, but after breaking the lower half of each stalk off and peeling them, I left them whole.
I heated up my cheap stove-top grill over medium heat, thoroughly coated the stalks with olive oil, placed them on the grill and cooked – while turning to apply even heat and to make some char marks – till tender. It doesn’t take nearly as long to cook on a grill as it does to boil them.
The first time I tested to see if they were done, I removed one from the grill and tried to cut it with a fork, which didn’t work. I cut it with a knife and fork and it was perfect, and chewing it was perfect, so I wouldn’t say cook till fork-tender, like you do when boiling them – more like cuts easily with a knife.
To Serve: This time I went with the fresh lemon drizzle for the grilled asparagus.
Plate, sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and a side lemon wedge for the lemon drizzle.
Wow! These were delicious. The char brought out a more potent asparagus flavor. They cool quickly, but it doesn’t matter – room temperature is great!
The vendor at the West Side Market was right. Grilled is the best way – at least for me. And easier with less cooking time.
Boiled is great too. It just depends on how delicate you want the flavors.