Boil or Steam Asparagus
The vegetable asparagus appears for only two months out of the year, so take advantage of it while it lasts. You can find it from the end of April to the beginning of June. Get the most out of your asparagus by cooking it as soon as you buy it.
Is it better to boil or steam asparagus? Asparagus is best steamed. Toss it in a bowl after cooking. Let it dry a bit, then toss it in cold butter to coat it. But whatever you do, never heat butter and asparagus in a sauté pan. If you do, the butter will turn oily.
Read more to learn how to serve steamed asparagus and enjoy more flavors! But before I get to it, I will teach you how to choose the best asparagus.
1. Choosing the Asparagus
While asparagus is in season from March to June, you can find this common vegetable in markets all year. Yet, there is no assurance that it will be as good as during the harvesting months.
Look for firm, bright green spears that have small, closed tips that aren’t mushy. The scale of the spears varies from fat (older plants) to pencil-thin (younger plants).
It’s up to you whether you want skinny or thick asparagus spears, but make sure they’re uniform for even cooking.
Among the frequently asked questions is whether to select thick or thin asparagus spears. Luckily for you, there is no such thing as a wrong answer. Each form of asparagus has its devotees.
Thick asparagus has a meatier center and has more crunch and texture than thin asparagus. It is tender, with a slightly crisp center. With a vegetable peeler, cut the woody outer part of the asparagus spears (about two inches up the stem end).
2. Storing the Asparagus
If possible, cook asparagus the same day you buy it. But if you are busy during the day of purchase, here are a few tips for storing it.
- Wrap asparagus in a damp paper towel.
- Lock it in a plastic container.
- Store it in the refrigerator.
Asparagus spears can also stand upright in a tub filled with one inch of water. Using a plastic bag, cover the asparagus and the container. Then it’s only a matter of deciding how you want to prepare the asparagus.
Are you unsure how much asparagus to purchase for your next meal? Choose 18 to 24 spears or four servings per pound of asparagus.
3. Preparing Asparagus
Because asparagus is grown in sandy soil, it must be thoroughly washed with cold water (especially the tips).
Bend each spear a few times to find a position where it breaks easily and then snaps off the woody foundation. The woody part of the spear typically begins to turn tender around the bottom third of the spear.
You may also shave an inch or so off the stem ends by aligning them. If required, use a vegetable peeler to remove the scales from the spears.
This strengthens tough or fat spears by giving them a smooth, clean appearance. Asparagus may also be cut into one-inch pieces for cooking if needed.
4. Steaming the Asparagus
Asparagus is usually steamed whole stalks, but it can also be steamed in bite-sized pieces. Put asparagus on a steamer rack and place over boiling water, whether whole or chopped.
- 1 lb. thick asparagus
- 3 tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup hollandaise sauce or one of its variations
- 2 tbsp. salt, if boiling
- Cut 1 inch of the asparagus spear’s woody base and discard. Peel the stalks in the manner outlined below. In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Add the salt, or prepare a steamer and bring it to a boil.
- Add the asparagus and steam for 4 to 8 minutes, or until it loses its crunch, depending on the thickness. Remove from the steamer rack and drain in a colander.
- Arrange the spears on warmed plates. Add a thin slice of butter or a drizzle of olive oil or butter on top of each serving. If you’re serving a sauce, pass it around the table in a sauceboat.
- Each stalk’s woody base should be trimmed by an inch or two.
- From the base of the flower to the bottom of the stalk, peel the stalks.
With butter and salt, steamed asparagus is a common dish. It’s traditionally served with a dollop of hollandaise sauce on top. Serve it with a light vinaigrette and sieved or grated hard-cooked eggs for a more decadent presentation.
How to Make Hollandaise Sauce
A pound of asparagus has around 60 calories. The nutrition facts for asparagus show that it is a good source of fiber. It is one of the best natural sources of folic acid.
You may eat it plain, eat it with lemon juice as a low-calorie side dish, or dip it in butter or another fatty sauce. If you want to try making hollandaise sauce, here’s a recipe:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup butter
- Dash of cayenne or hot pepper sauce
- Dash of salt
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper sauce in a blender. Cover and blend on medium until everything is well combined.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. It doesn’t matter whether you use your microwave or your stove. It should be extremely hot but not burnt.
- Remove the cover from the blender and set it to heavy. Pour the butter in a thin stream while the machine is working.
- The sauce can easily thicken. Serve immediately.
If you’re worried about salmonella, look for pasteurized in-shell eggs. (While the hot butter helps cook the yolks partially, it does not fully eliminate the risk.)
Other Ways to Serve Steamed Asparagus
There’s nothing wrong with easy planning if you’re looking for other choices. Fresh asparagus has a great natural sweetness that doesn’t take much embellishment. Here are some suggestions:
- Garlic is a good addition. After steaming the spears, mince a clove or two, sauté in a tablespoon of butter, and brush them with the garlic butter.
- Sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Add fresh herbs to the broth.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
- Sprinkle with toasted slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts.
Steaming asparagus gently helps lock in its vivid, fresh flavor, making it ideal for mixing with more subtle ingredients. Asparagus goes well with anything from a quick drizzle of olive oil to sea trout or a poached egg.
Now that you have all of the instructions for steaming asparagus at your fingertips, it’s time to get cooking!