‘Tis the season for Asparagus. We have a 30-year old bed (of two 25-foot rows) that produces about a pound of asparagus spears every day for six weeks or so (when it was a much younger bed, we could pick 2-1/2 pounds or more a day). We are definitely of the mind that you should only eat FRESH asparagus, not frozen which has a mushy texture and absolutely not canned which is something only slightly removed from what the cat horked up. When it’s asparagus season, we eat it a lot, maybe not every day, but certainly frequently and whenever we want to. We also sell some and give away quite a bit.
But, we do run into asparagus fatigue. How many ways can you prepare asparagus? Our favorite way is roasted – lightly coated with olive oil (spraying it with a good olive oil cooking spray is the easiest way) and roasted for about 10 minutes (less for thin spears, maybe a little more for really fat spears) at 400 degrees, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roasting eliminates the potential for slippery, watery asparagus – roasting turns it sweet with a nice firm but cooked texture.
Steamed is second best. A few years ago we invested in a proper asparagus steamer, which is also great for steaming up to 7 ears of corn. This unusual looking pot is tall and narrow with a basket liner. The basket lets you take the asparagus out all in one fell swoop. Because the asparagus (or corn) steam with the toughest part towards the bottom it almost eliminates the problem of overcooking. We don’t boil asparagus because it comes out watery and it hard to get the whole spear evenly cooked – either the base is under-cooked or the tip is over-cooked.
One of our favorite fall-back and easy preparations is an improved variation on a starter we first had at Coquette Cafe in Milwaukee. Roasted asparagus topped with a poached egg, a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and a sprinkle of crispy Prosciutto paired with a simple salad and some toasted crusty bread. It makes a nice lunch or light supper.
Roast Asparagus with egg, Parmigiano and Prosciutto.
Cut or snap asparagus to consistent length. Lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes until the scales on the tips start to lightly brown.
Poach eggs following your favorite procedure – about 6 minutes or until the yolk is done to your taste. We prefer the yolk to be slightly runny.
Cut Prosciutto into pieces about 1/2 the size of a postage stamp. Toast over low/medium heat in a dry saute pan, shaking frequently, until it starts to darken and gets a little dry. Set aside to cool, the Prosciutto will get crispier as it cools.
Serve with a bed of asparagus, topped with the poached egg. Add a few shavings of Parmigiano and a generous sprinkling of Prosciutto. Serve with a slice of toasted crusty bread (like Ciabatta or other good country-style bread) and a simple green salad.