This recipe is one of my go-to favorites and I make it one a week, hence all the variations listed below. Skillet asparagus is a Southern secret with frying asparagus in a cast iron skillet, which concentrates its flavor rather than diluting it, as steaming or boiling does to this gentle vegetable, especially if you buy them pencil-thin, which we always strive to do, as the thicker ones can be tough and therefore require peeling, which is avoided with the thin ones. For one month of the year–April– we get the thick white asparagus grown in Spain or Italy, while the green is now in season nearly year-round with greenhouses, but is also best in season which is April to June. The white aspargus can be done the same way, but requires peeling with a sharp knife or kitchen peeler, taking just a sliver of the skin from a couple of inches from the tip down to the stalk. Some say that you should shock asparagus in cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process, but I prefer to stop the cooking about a minute before they are ready (still a little al dente to the bite), which allows them to finish steaming on the plate to perfection.
- 1 lb asparagus, with an 1” removed from the butts.
- 1-2 T. butter
- salt and pepper
1. Rinse asparagus in cold water and trim off tough ends of stalks. Put butter in a heavy skillet (cast iron preferred) with a tight-fitting lid and heat until butter is foaming. Lay asparagus in the pan and shake from side to side to coat asparagus gently with melted butter; cover tightly and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Check asparagus and turn as needed to make sure the stalks cook evenly and don’t burn.
2. Continue cooking 5 minutes longer, or until asparagus is tender but still crisp and bright green. They should be slightly charred. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.
For a fancier side dish to take to take along tailgating at polo matches, you can dress this up with 1 1/2 c. croutons, 1/4 c. almonds, and 1 c. cooked chorizo sliced into 1/4″ slices, combining together with a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
OR: you can toss with 8 thin slices of feta or a few spoonfuls of ricota and a bit of grated lemon zest, together t with salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil. You can also char-grill the asparagus instead of the pan method, which also works nicely.
Sometimes I run the cooked asparagus under water, dry and chill, taking them along on a picnic the next day. I bring along a citrus vinaigrette to top them with which goes together like this:
- juice and zest of one orange
- juice and zest of one lime
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- French sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 grape seed oil