Cook's Illustrated (May 2013)
When asparagus arrives each spring, much heralded as a sign of great things to come, we gobble it up every chance we get, buying several pounds a week at our farmers market.
But we always feel a bit of pressure with the first asparagus of the season. It's a bit pricey at times and we want to use it way that really shows it off. Not, horror of horrors, overcooking it within an inch of its life.
We grill it, roast it, steam it, eat it raw and stir fry it. All have had their triumphs and pitfalls in our kitchen.
Cook's Illustrated has taken the guess work out of at least one of these methods.
Ladies and gents, it's time to stir fry some asparagus.
This is a recipe that succeed on every level, producing a stir-fried asparagus that is absolutely perfectly cooked. It's full of flavor and, for those of you short on time, pretty darn quick.
This is one of four variations on stir-fried asparagus offered by America's Test Kitchen this month. Two others -- this shiitake version, along with Stir-Fried Asparagus with Red Bell Pepper and Stir-Fried Asparagus with Red Onion -- are in the magazine. A fourth, Stir-Fried Asparagus with Carrot, is offered as an online exclusive.
All of these recipes, by author Keith Dresser, follow the same successful formula:
Pair a pound of asparagus with a second vegetable (to increase the dish's yield). In a hot smoking pan with a bit of oil, add the asparagus and the second vegetable, cooking it very briefly until the asparagus begins to brown, just 3 or 4 minutes. Add liquid -- in the case of the shiitake version, a mix of soy sauce, sherry, sugar, ginger and sesame oil -- and let it nearly evaporate,which allows the asparagus to steam slightly, over the course of 1 or 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and garnish with green onions or herbs.
It's a template you can experiment with on your own, mixing and matching flavors that you prefer. We'll lobby hard, though, for this version with shiitake mushrooms. The sauce, rich with Asian flavors, is absolutely delicious paired with the mushrooms, which soak up a bit of the sauce, and the crisp-tender asparagus. Even the mushroom doubter among us loved the dish, which is no small feat.
What's your go-to way to use asparagus? We'd love to hear about it. Please share it in the comments!
To allow it to brown, stir the asparagus only occasionally. Look for spears that are no thicker than 1/2 inch. Cook's Illustrated offers a video of this recipe on their website.
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on bias into 2-inch lengths
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thinly on bias
Combine water, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, ginger and sesame oil in a bowl.
Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking. Add asparagus and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring once or twice, until pan is almost dry and asparagus is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with scallion greens, and serve.