Aspire to Local Asparagus
By Chef Bryan Weener from Haggen Market Street Catering
Here at Haggen the changing of the seasons is more than a shift in the weather, it’s a renewal of life and an exploration of what’s new for the taste buds. Spring is especially exciting around here as we transition to one of the most bountiful times of the year in the Northwest. Our Market Street Catering chef, Bryan Weener, loves discovering new Northwest flavors and is an expert at integrating our local specialties into his seasonal catering menu. Here are Bryan’s tips for selecting and cooking the perfect spring asparagus.
Spring reminds me of warm Saturday mornings with my father looking for morel mushrooms and wild asparagus around the woods by our house. My dad would say the ground has to be 50 degrees or warmer for one week before the morels will come. He would even go so far as to put a thermometer in the ground and record the temperature daily in anticipation of the fruitful harvest. Oh the thrill for some!
Myself? I’m looking forward to the asparagus. I’ve already seen some good deals on some very nice looking grass (as we call it in the industry). I personally prefer the medium to larger ones myself—I don’t quite understand why people think the thin ones are better or tenderer. I think there’s a misconception that the thin pencil-sized ones are younger and, therefore, more tender. Asparagus comes up in both thick and thin stalks—making both sizes the same age. If you do prefer the thin stalks, keep in mind that over cooking them is the number one mistake.
How to Select and Cook Perfect Asparagus
Selecting ripe stalks
Select nice firm asparagus with tips that have not started to bud out. Avoid tips that look like little seeds are starting to form on the tips—that’s a sign they’ve started to bud out and won’t be at their prime. Trim the bottom off of the asparagus where the color starts to change from pale green to whitish.
You can cook them a few different ways but my favorite way is on the grill. If you haven’t refilled your propane tank since last season roasting them in the oven will do as well. Either way, high heat is the key. Preheat your grill to medium high or your oven to 450°F with a baking tray in it. You want the tray to be hot so when the grass hits the tray it starts cooking immediately.
Place the asparagus in a bowl and lightly coat with vegetable oil, canola oil or an extra virgin olive oil, and season with Kosher salt or sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place on the grill or your preheated tray in the overn and roll them around a couple times. Here’s the key: 3-4 minutes is all they need. If you insist on the pencil thin stalks then, they will be overcooked at 2 minutes.
Congratulations! You are now an official Asparagus Master—you’re now free to impress your friends at your next BBQ or spring dinner party!
Ready for another asparagus recipe? Try this refreshing Asparagus Soup with Hempler’s Smoked Bacon, Lime Creme Fraiche & Croutons from Chef Bryan’s cookbook.