How to Boil Asparagus
The Spring Time Vegetable We Love
Asparagus is a vegetable that pops up in the spring time. It is actually the sprouting shoots of a perennial that flowers. It has been used as a medicinal vegetable due to its diuretic properties and was a favorite of the Romans who actually dried this delicate vegetable for use in the wintertime. It was brought to the United States in 1850 and is widely cultivated.
The best taste comes from the tender tips of an asparagus stalk and cooking asparagus takes very little time and effort. If you think you do not like asparagus, chances are that you have only tried asparagus that was severely over cooked. Overcook this vegetable and you end up with a stringy, tasteless pile of mush. Boil it quickly and and you end up with an epicurian delight.
Asparagus is extremely good for you. It is loaded with fiber and has very little sodium. Vitamins A, C, E and K are found in this vegetable and minerals include calcium, chromium, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Older asparagus is thick while young plants produce thin stalks. Older, thick asparagus yields a woody taste and peeling the base of the stalk may be necessary to rid the vegetable of its stringiness. Peeling is extra work, I prefer to snap stalks after cleaning them.
Preparing and Cooking Asparagus
When buying asparagus look for a bunch with thinner stalks that have a bright green and fresh color. Fresh asparagus may actually show shades of purple or gray in the tips and these colors are fine. Tips should not be wilting and the stalks should be firm.
Rinse your asparagus bunch in cool water. Bend the stalks at the base to snap off the hard and woody flavored ends. You will feel the asparagus yield when you bend it and a firm snap will break off the ends which are less flavorful. Do not throw the ends away. The ends can be used to make delicious soup. If you do not want to make the soup right away then briefly blanch the stem ends, dry and freeze them for a future recipe, like Cream of Asparagus Soup.
Using a vegetable steamer is the best way to cook asparagus. Vegetable steamers are stainless steel inserts that line the bottom of a pan. The asparagus does not get covered by boiling water, instead the steam rises and cooks the vegetable. Cooking time does not change with a steamer. An asparagus pot works well, too, since the insert has a handle which allows you to pull out all of the asparagus at once which helps to stop the cooking process faster.
Bring a big pot half full of water to a boil. Use a pot that will allow the asparagus to lay flat rather than upright. Once the water is boiling, place asparagus in the pot and cover until the water comes back to a boil and remove lid. Boil the asparagus for 5 to 8 minutes, do not over cook the stalks. You can test a piece after 5 minutes, it sould still be somewhat crisp and bright green. Once cooked, remove and place on a kitchen towel to dry. Serve asparagus immediately. Toss with salt, black pepper and fresh lemon juice to season or try the asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Try the recipe below. Serve 7 to 10 stalks per person. A pound of asparagus willl yield approximately 20 stalks.
Hollandaise Sauce for Asparagus
5 Star Hollandaise Sauce
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp lemon, fresh squeezed
- 1 stick butter, unsalted
- pinch salt
- pinch white peper
- Whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice until the mixture has doubled in volume. Use a stainless steel bowl.
- Place bowl over a pan of simmering water. A double boile is optimal but not necessary.
- Whisk rapidly over the pan of water while drizzling in the melted stick of butter. Do not let the mixture get too hot or the eggs will separate.
- Once this mixture has doubled in volume, whisk in salt and pepper. Keep in a warm place until ready to pour over asparagus. Add a few drops of water to thin if sauce is too thick before serving.
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