Overcooking robs asparagus of flavor

New York TimesMay 18, 2013 

CITY KITCHEN 1

Asparagus sauteed with sesame, scallions, garlic, ginger and hot peppers. Make sure the spears you serve are firm, lively and as green as spring, remove them from the heat source a little sooner than you think you should.

FRED R CONRAD — NYT

I have prepared, cooked and eaten an awful lot of asparagus over the course of my career, so one might guess I have strong opinions about it. Indeed, I do.

I love asparagus. What I hate is to see asparagus mistreated, misunderstood or, worse, overcooked. Hate. My advice, when I’m asked how to prepare it, is always this: Don’t overcook it.

To make sure the asparagus you serve is firm, lively and as bright green as spring, remove the spears from the heat source a little sooner than you think you should. The retained heat will continue to cook them, so err on the side of undercooked. A firm green stalk is sweet. Asparagus actually stands up well to aggressive flavors. In essence, anything you can do with a zucchini, a green bean or a snow pea pod, you can do with asparagus. And you wouldn’t overcook those, would you?

Simple Spicy Asparagus in a Wok 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, medium or pencil-size 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 6 small dried red peppers Salt and pepper 1/2 teaspoon Chinese chile paste 1 teaspoon grated garlic 1 teaspoon grated ginger 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, finely chopped 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro 3 green onions, slivered 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

SNAP off and discard bottoms of asparagus, then cut into 2-inch pieces.

SET wok over high heat and add vegetable oil. Add dried peppers and let sizzle, then add asparagus, tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for a minute or so, then add chile paste, garlic, ginger, orange zest and jalapeno. Continue cooking over high heat for a minute, maybe less, until asparagus is cooked but still firm and bright green.

MOUND asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with sesame oil. Sprinkle cilantro, green onion and sesame seeds over the top. Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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