Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Butter-Basted One-Pan Asparagus

I am in the very thick of my spring love affair. Oh the lilacs! The dogwood! The violets and lilies of the valley and the mint coming fast and furious! The sunlit awakenings and long blue days and sunlit dinners! I mean, my god. Last night after we'd finished eating we watched a big, fat ground hog eating big, fat dandelions, and it was like a cartoon.

Plus, asparagus is in season here, and we really do gorge on it while it's gorgeous.

For Mother's Day Michael roasted asparagus in the oven and served it with my very most favorite dinner: cheese and crackers. But, like, really good cheese, and three different kinds of crackers, and I was in total heaven. I would eat cheese and crackers for dinner every single night if it were allowed. Plus, when you eat it for dinner, instead of before dinner, you can eat as much as you want. Or so I tell myself.

Speaking of Mother's Day, Birdy and I spent the weekend at the most incredible rug-making workshop taught by the most incredible Crispina Frrench at the most amazing Snow Farm, which is like art camp for grown-ups (and teens). We went in the fall too, and I wrote about it here. After I write the bestselling Catastrophic Da Vinci Code, we are going to go every weekend.

What, this old rug? [shrugs modestly]
In other news, a child in my family sustained a sports injury! What? I know! Birdy sprained her ankle playing ultimate Frisbee. I was a little patronizing about it, until it turned into a giant purple balloon, and I then I was like, "Oh, I see!" (Notice how smug she looks.)
Anyhoo, asparagus. I always think I couldn't possibly find a simpler way to cook it, and then I do. This method produces lovely, buttery, crisp-tender asparagus: your teeth find some resistance, but then the inside of each spear is all stringy tenderness. (That sounded better in my head than it sounds now, written out, but I'll just leave it there.) Try it. And share your own favorite asparagus methods, if you would be so kind!

The salmon eaters in our family ate it with salmon, and I made this sauce for it. Oh my god! So good. Lightly whipped cream with a little mustard and lemon zest and herbs (I used tarragon and chives) and my own personal addition of chopped capers to make it taste like a cross between pie topping and tartar sauce. Delish.
The non-salmon eaters were served herby scrambled eggs.  Everyone had toast because, well, toast.
Butter-Basted One-Pan Asparagus
Adapted from this recipe for green beans, which I adapted from this recipe for green beans.

2 bunches asparagus (around 2 pounds), ends snapped off
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ cup water
6 tablespoons butter
Squeeze of lemon and a bit of grated lemon zest (optional)

Put everything but the lemon in a wide, lidded skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cover it. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it simmers steadily, and use tongs to mix the asparagus around occasionally, so that everyone gets a chance to be where the butter is.

Eventually, the liquid will evaporate and the asparagus will be buttery and done—start checking them at around 3 minutes (little ones will take a little bit of time, and fatter ones will take more time) and turn the heat off when they’re cooked to your liking—or, really, just shy of your liking, since they’ll cook a little more after.

Use tongs to move the asparagus to a platter, and evaluate the liquid left in the pan. If it’s just a buttery, glazey juice, then scrape it over the asparagus. If the asparagus have given up a lot of liquid, then boil this liquid briskly for a minute over high heat until it’s more butter than juice. Either way, if you’re using it, add the lemon juice and zest to the pan before scraping its contests over the asparagus. Done. Perfect. 


  1. I could live on cheese and crackers. Yum yum yum. And those rugs are gorgeous! I hope Birdy is mending nicely.

  2. The asparagus recipe made be begin to drool—will be trying this in the next few days!

  3. Elizabeth3:56 PM

    if only I could convince my DH that crackers and cheese are acceptable! We do agree on asparagus and we keep it simple as well. Lined up on a cookie sheet, drizzle of olive oil and roll 'em around to make sure they are coated and sprinkle with sea salt. Broil about 5 min -give or take based on size and then wait for it - drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Delightful! (forks are optional)

    1. Anonymous9:23 PM

      This is almost exactly the way I make it, except melted butter drizzled over it instead of the olive oil. Quick, easy, and good!

  4. I love you. Made this last night with twice-baked potatoes and ribs (maybe the most ambitious meal I've made in two years!) and I ended up "testing" three pieces before doling it out. BUTTER-BASTED EVERYTHING.

  5. Working from home, hungry but didn't know what do do for lunch. Ran into this post, asparagus bubbling away right now, and dreaming about Snow Farm workshops for summertime. Catherine, you are the best. Birdy has the best haircut in America. xo.