Monday, April 9, 2012

Alton Brown's great trick for asparagus



When asparagus is in season, I have one simple mission: Get as much of it in me as possible. This year, I might have time to get enough. The fresh, local asparagus turned up at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market last week.

How to cook it without getting bored? I usually roast it (toss the stalks with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a single layer in a shallow pan and slide it in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes at 375.) Or I pan-roast it: Put in a cast-iron skillet with 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons water, cover and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until the water cooks away and the asparagus is finishing in the oil.

Both are fine. But I wanted more. Sometimes, I don't want to heat up the oven, or the top of the stove is busy with other things. I was wasting time -- um, doing research -- one day last week when I stumbled on a video by Alton Brown on the best way to microwave asparagus.

I tried his method twice this weekend and darned if Geek Guy isn't right. It's pretty much foolproof and it yields asparagus that is sweet and grassy, with just enough crunch left.

You can watch his video below, or I'll spare you all the flipping camera tricks and just tell you how to do it:
1. Pour 1/4 cup water into a shallow plate.

2. Take 2 paper towels (he says 3 or 4, but I only needed 2), fold them up to fit in the plate and place them on the plate, turning to soak up all the water.

3. Unfold the very wet paper towels and place your trimmed asparagus on it in a single layer. (He says a pound, but it works for smaller amounts.)

4. Sprinkle with salt -- kosher, sea or regular. About 1/2 teaspoon for 1 pound, a little less for less.

5. Roll up the asparagus in the paper towels. Place in the microwave.

6. Zap for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. (3:30 was perfect for fatter spears; skinny ones probably only need 2:30). Unroll and eat.

Thanks, Alton.

13 comments:

Jensen said...

Alton Brown is great. Common sense cooking. He has generally makes things that are accessible and explains how to do it well. His teaching style suits my learning style.

Anonymous said...

Is the wives tale that microwaving vegetables causes them to lose a lot of their nutrients untrue?

Anonymous said...

Cooking vegetables in general, not just in the microwave, causes a lot of nutrients to be lost. For that reason, canned vegetables are practically useless except they serve as filler and a vehicle for salt because they are typically loaded with it.

Kathleen Purvis said...

Overcooking anything will cut both the nutrients and the flavor. This method is great because it doesn't use a lot of water and because it works very quickly, preserving the flavor and texture. Theoretically, that would preserve the vitamins as well.

John said...

I like them on the grill, just use toothpicks to assemble a handful into a "raft" that won't fall through the cracks, treat with Olive oil, sea salt and pepper... watch closely on the grill, just enough to get them tender.

John said...

Oh, a little lemon juice also helps keep them green and fresh tasting. Works with microwaved broccoli too!

Ellen D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sweet Potato said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I love Alton and his recipes. I took his microwave method and upped it, I think it's even better.
Put the asparagus in a flat dish, spray asparagus with Pam, grate 2 cloves of garlic over asparagus, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with a little water, toss, cover with Saran wrap. Pierce wrap to allow steam to escape. Microwave 2 minutes or until cooked to your preference.

Kathleen Purvis said...

Thanks for sharing that, Anon 4:30.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.