Asparagus is back, asparagus is back!!! The Loire Valley has done its magic, and bunches of white and green, fat, juicy asparagus stalks beckon.
I could wait to indulge until Baptiste’s asparagus pokes through the soil of his nearby fields in Criqueboeuf sur Seine. But it’s been a long winter and I cannot. So I expand my definition of local. After all, the Loire Valley is only 183 kilometers away, which is still very local. Right?
In any case, I bought a bunch of asparagus yesterday to share with a friend who was coming for lunch. I braised the stalks, which intensifies their green, spring flavor. Enhanced with sprigs of thyme and a couple of fresh bay leaves, the asparagus was a conversation-stopper: succulent, juicy and tender, yet firm. I hope you’ll try it as soon as you find local asparagus. You will be soooo happy.
A couple of notes: If your stalks are of varying thickness, begin the cooking process with the thickest and add the thin stalks later. Also, Attention (Attensyon)! Stalks prepared this way are not crisp, they are tender and cooked through, and at that stage – which I consider perfectly cooked – they give ALL their flavor.
Of course there is nothing wrong with raw asparagus – it’s surprisingly juicy and beguiling. But it’s better when it’s perfectly cooked.
2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (125ml) water
2 fresh bay leaves
Several sprigs fresh thyme
2 pounds (1kg) white or green asparagus, trimmed and peeled (if using white)
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Chive blossoms – optional garnish
- Place the olive oil, the water, and the herbs in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the asparagus. Turn the asparagus so it is coated with the oil and water mixture and when the water and oil come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the asparagus until it is tender, turning it from time to time so that it cooks evenly and turns golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
- When the asparagus is nearly tender through, remove the cover and cook it, shaking the pan and stirring it, until any liquid in the pan evaporates. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and transfer the asparagus to a serving dish. Garnish with the chive blossoms and serve immediately.
4 to 6 servings