Overcooking robs asparagus of flavor

New York TimesMay 18, 2013 


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.


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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