HOW TO PREPARE & COOK ASPARAGUS
Asparagus is a versatile little vegetable that packs a punch. But the window for Asparagus is short so it can be helpful to know exactly how to prepare and cook asparagus so you don’t waste any precious time getting it onto you plate! It can be used a healthy snack, or vessel for something a bit more decadent like poached eggs and shaved truffle.
It is good enough to be served on it’s own for starters and pairs well with rich sauces, such as hollandaise, sharp cheeses like parmesan and any fish you can think of.
It’s perfect for soups, risottos, & pasta dishes. You name it, there is not much these little stalks can’t turn their hand to.
Asparagus comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin spears tend to have a more intense flavour, but can be a little bit tough due to the ratio of fibrous skin to softer interior. Fat spears on the other hand are much more tender than small stalks, but can get a little watery if cooked for too long.
Regardless of whether they are thin or fat, I am going to show you how to prepare and cook these little green spears of joy, to perfection!
— Al Brady
First thing we have to do is remove any woody ends from our asparagus. You can do this by holding the centre and base of the spear with your finger and thumb and gently bending the stalk until it breaks naturally. Discard the woody base and repeat with the remaining asparagus.
Once all the woody ends have been removed if you are feeling particularly fancy you can use a peeler to remove the fibrous skin, to make the asparagus extra tender. But feel free to skip this step all together. It’s not something I believe to be a necessity because we like to keep asparagus as simple as possible but it is an option.
Then it’s time to get the Asparagus ready for the pan! Asparagus spears become quite delicate during cooking and can be damaged easily. So it is important we protect them as best we can. Divide your asparagus into bunches of no more than 10 spears and line them up so all the spear tips are facing the same way.
Using butchers twine securely wrap the string around the tips of the spears 3 times and then using the same piece of string repeat this at the base of the asparagus. Finish off by tying the string together in the middle to hold all the asparagus together.
This method may seem a little excessive but it is the best way to protect your asparagus from any damage. If we just tie asparagus together in the middle, they tend to wriggle their way loose and often get damage during cooking.
Now your asparagus is tied, you can blanch it off in a large pan of boiling salted water. The idea here is to cook the asparagus just enough to tenderise the stalk, with out over cooking the spear tip and losing the vibrant green colour. Time will vary according to the thickness of your asparagus but most spears need no more than 2-3 minutes in boiling water.
Then you can either serve your asparagus straight away, (piping hot, smothered in some sort of delicious butter sauce) or refresh in ice-water for several minutes, drain thoroughly, remove the string and store it in the fridge, for up to 2 days, to be used later.