This Is How We Do: Asparagus

Straight from

Photo by julianne’s.

Hints of spring — the later sunsets, the warmer days, the daffodils — are slowly pulling us out of winter’s lull. Spring’s vegetables will soon be filling the grocer’s shelves as well, including spears of asparagus, the focus of this month’s “This is How We Do…“.

Asparagus is delicious, yet is the butt of many jokes for its affect on a certain, ahem, bathroom smell. But we won’t get into that — we’ll just focus on the delicious part.

Asparagus season starts in April to the delight of many D.C. chefs, who celebrate its “herbaceous, earthy” flavor and “grassy aroma.” For many, preparing asparagus is simple: just add olive oil and seasoning. But others branch out, pairing it with citrus for balance, serving it with poached eggs for texture and flavor, or baking it into a tart with bacon. Read on to hear how these chefs prepare this delightful spring vegetable. There are even a couple recipes to recreate at home as well as suggested wine and beer pairings.

Glenn Babcock, Chef and Co-Owner, Nage Bistro
“I like asparagus blanched and grilled. At home, I thinly slice it with a mandolin and serve it as a salad with a light citronette with cumin.”

Amy Brandwein, Executive Chef, Casa Nonna
“Asparagus — spring is finally here! Asparagus has a unique flavor — herbaceous, earthy and strong. I like to roast it in the oven with lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. I find citrus notes really help to brighten and balance its flavor. One of my favorite ways to serve it is grilled, dressed with lemon and anchovy vinaigrette and topped with a runny egg and shaved pecorino toscano. It is also fantastic as a soup topped with parmesan zabaglione.”

John Critchley, Executive Chef, Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar
“I love wild asparagus — its thin ‘wheat like’ look, its grassy aroma…I like to make a batter with ceci flour and soda water and then fry them up crisp. I serve them with a romesco or lemon aioli and a glass of Viognier.”

Thomas Elder, Executive Chef, Härth
“The one thing that stands out in my mind about asparagus is that, even as a little kid, I remember seeing asparagus growing wild on the side of the road and knew that summer was not far behind. We used to pick the wild asparagus and bring it home to cook that evening for dinner; most times just brushed lightly with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then grilled over charcoal. Sweet and succulent, it reminds me of spring in the Midwest.”

Stefano Frigerio, Chef and Founder, The Copper Pot Food Co.
“I use asparagus as a garnish in just about everything in the spring. The best prep is a quick blanch followed by sautéing the asparagus in butter. I add some cream and make an asparagus soup. Or serve with some poached duck eggs. It’s also good chopped up and tossed with our grass-fed beef tortellini.”

Paul Healey, Chef de Cuisine, Domaso Trattoria Moderna
“I love to grill asparagus. I just toss it with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt and then finish it with lemon juice. I know it sounds boring, but it really helps the flavor of the asparagus shine through and adds a touch of smokiness. To me, grilled asparagus screams spring. The grill reminds you that you can finally get outside after the winter and the vegetable is bright green, just like spring.”

Chris Nye, Executive Chef, Pizzeria Orso
“Grilled asparagus is my favorite. Grilling outdoors with the new spring harvest is a great start to the warm summer. Grilling adds a nice charred bitterness to the mellow earthy vegetable. At Orso, we serve asparagus with smoked bocconcini and lemon preserves. This adds a creamy richness and a bite from the acidic lemon.”

Jaime da Oca Montes, Chef, Zentan
“When I think about spring, I think about asparagus. They are great eaten raw (shaved thin) and tossed with lemon and olive oil. They can be grilled and served alongside an aioli, or they can be stir fried with garlic, soy, and mirin.”

Stir fried asparagus with soy mirin:
1 bunch of asparagus
4 cloves of garlic
2 oz soy sauce
1 oz mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp canola oil

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4 minutes, then shock in an ice bath. Strain and cut in half.
Chop 3 cloves of garlic fine and rinse under cold water for 20 minutes, fry in oil till crispy, strain and lay out on a paper towel.
Heat up a wok or large sauté pan, add 1 T of canola oil and remaining garlic, lightly brown, add asparagus, soy and mirin.
Transfer to a plate and garnish with fried garlic.

Guillermo Pernot, Chef and Partner, Cuba Libre
“I like to blanch asparagus in salty water and serve it with olive oil and sea salt. Simple and delicious.”

Claudio Pirollo, Chef and Co-Owner, Et Voila Belgian Bistro
“My favorite type of asparagus is the white asparagus. One of my first jobs was at a restaurant in a small town called Maline, outside of Brussels, called La Maison du Boeuf. On my first day, I had to peel three cases of white asparagus which was served as Asparagus a la Flammande with hollandaise. It took several years for me to start making it at home again. The preparation for the Asparagus a la Flammande is simple. Cook the asparagus in boiling water with salt and a little lemon juice for 15 minutes, put them on a plate and allow to cool. Serve with a hollandaise sauce. I highly recommend eating with a glass of White Hoegaarden Beer or glass of good Sancerre. At Et Voila we like to serve asparagus with morel mushrooms and cream. I blanch the asparagus then roast with olive oil. I make a sauce of fresh morel mushrooms and cream and pour over top and serve with some grilled bread.”

Gary Robinson, Executive Chef, British Embassy
“Many people think of asparagus as a steamed vegetable, but it adores the heat of the grill as well and it’s really not difficult. When purchasing asparagus for grilling, look for thicker asparagus. You can peel the asparagus if you want a dish that is a bit more elegant, but reality is that the skin will protect the tender flesh if you’re grilling on a high heat. The only thing you really need to do is snap off the woody end; there’s a natural breaking point if you flex each spear at the bottom. It’ll snap at the point where the wood stops and the tender matter starts.

We almost always turn to olive oil, balsamic vinegar and shaved Parmesan for the finishing touches. But I like finishing the spears off with a splash each of sesame oil, Thai peanut sauce and soy sauce, a clove of minced garlic, a few toasted sesame seeds, a little good quality salt (I have a blend of 5 salts which I’m constantly playing around with, 2 crystals from England one of which is smoked, a French fleur de sel, an Indian black salt called Kala Namak and a Kosher salt) and plenty freshly ground black pepper. And here’s an oldie, but a goodie…bacon and asparagus tart.

Vikram Sunderam, Chef, Rasika
“At Rasika we blanch the asparagus, slice it and then toss it with mustard seeds, lentils, curry leaves, chopped onions, green chillies and ginger. Then we use it as a topping for the uttapam which is a rice and lentil pancake cooked on a flat griddle.”

By Elisabeth Grant in on March 22, 2011 1:30 PM


About penultimatist

Columbia Heights living, yoga practicing, avid reading, arts loving, nonprofit working, soccer playing semi-yupster
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