Monday, April 16, 2012

Asparagus 2 ways: ribbons and blanched (video)

I first saw asparagus on the packet of McCormick's Hollandaise sauce. We were invited for dinner to Nancy and Howard’s – an American family who was helping us adjust to our new country when we moved here in ’91. I was 13, and found US fascinating, particularly all the interesting foods. Baltimore suburbs were not what you’d consider a culinary destination, particularly in the early 90s. But I didn’t know that. All I knew was that this place had 5 brands of butter, cool fruits like mango, and strawberries in December -- completely unheard of in Russia at the time. So when I saw Nancy cooking asparagus and then pouring the yellow sauce from the special packet all over it, I was intrigued.

What was even more intriguing was that her kids wrinkled their noses when asparagus dish reached them, and passed it on without a moment’s hesitation. Since I was determined to try everything at least once, I plopped a few slippery spears that threatened to fall apart onto my plate. I barely managed to cut these mushy sticks into bite-size pieces. Not only were they mushy, they were stringy too. When I finally got to tasting one of them, I learned that Nancy’s kids were right. These frog-colored sticks were pretty bad.

US has gone through such a culinary revolution in the past 20 years that it’s hard to believe it’s the same country. You can now find celery root and sorrel in many supermarkets, figs are found not only in Fig Newtons, and restaurants serve duck liver and sweetbreads. By now, asparagus is as exotic as potato. And yet, most asparagus served as home is still the same brownish stringy mush it was 15 years ago. Most men and children still hate it, and most women righteously cook it (or dare I say overcook it) and pretend to like it because it’s good for you.

So, throw away that asparagus steamer (it’s a useless piece of equipment) and get ready to cook all the wonderful spring asparagus that’s now in season.

YouTube Link: Asparagus Ribbon Salad and Blanched Spears

Videos you might want to watch before this one:
Claw and Pinch Grip (how to keep blood out of your veggies)
How to keep your knives sharp

32 down / 18 more to go


Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of flash-grilling asparagus for years, so that it's cooked through but still quite firm. I've tried for years to get my husband to try it, but he steadfastly refused.

Last month we found ourselves in his mother's kitchen. She'd had a pan of asparagus slowly cooking in the oven, and asked if he wanted some. In all of his 29 years, he had never- ever!- tried the stuff. She and I were astounded, and literally held him down as she force-fed him a spear. He wrinkled his nose and choked it down, confirming that he didn't like it.

I then grabbed a spear to munch on, happy for what's considered a treat here in Alaska where it retails for $3.99 per pound. It was a disgusting, limp, stringy, mushy mess, and my gag reflex did not appreciate the assault.

So now my challenge is to coerce hubby into eating MY asparagus, but I have a feeling it's a battle I won't win thanks to that memorable (and rather gross) first experience with the normally-delicious veggie.

Helen said...

It's a shame your husband's first experience with asparagus was so awful. But so was mine :) Make him the asparagus ribbon salad, but don't tell him what it is. if you don't add the tips, he won't guess.