Friday, April 4, 2014

A "Winter Meets Spring" Asparagus Recipe

Come April, we crave asparagus. Tender and delicate, yet those flavor notes have a distinct snap. Since the weather is still pretty wintry we’ve got the perfect recipe for you-one that combines springy asparagus with a richer, luxurious preparation, fit for the rainy chilly weather outside.

Fettuccine with Asparagus Sauce (Serves 4)
1 pound fresh fettuccine
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
¼ cup olive oil
Fresh chopped Italian (flat) parsley
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
Shaved parmesan to garnish
Salt and white pepper to taste

Cut off the tips and the tough ends of the asparagus. Discard the tough ends and reserve the tips. Chop the asparagus stems. Combine olive oil and garlic in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add the chopped asparagus and a sprinkle of salt.
Cook over medium heat until tender. Add 1-½ cups of water and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture reduce by half and add the cream. Reduce by another half. Let the asparagus mixture cool and puree in a blender, or use an immersion blender.
Strain, puree, and add back into a saucepan. Add the asparagus tips and parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Strain the pasta and drain completely. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Arrange on a heated serving platter (or individual bowls) and garnish with the shaved Parmesan.

When the first local asparagus and the sun both come in, hopefully soon, there are many other preparations you can try:

  • Boil or steam the asparagus spears until they just sag when lifted. Then dress them very simply with good olive oil, lemon juice and coarse salt. And maybe a few shavings of Parmesan…
  • The wiry thin spears are great stirred into risotto or pasta, or used to make a frittata. You don't need to peel the asparagus, just cut off the bases.
  • Cut off the bases of the asparagus where they turn green, then peel with a vegetable peeler from the tip down. They work very well on the grill but you can also glaze them. Lay them in one layer in a skillet and add just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Then add some butter or a splash of olive oil. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the spears are almost tender (poke them with a small, sharp knife to make sure). Remove the lid, raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid has reduced to a silky asparagus-flavored sauce. Serve as is, or top it with a sunny-side-up egg with some good bread for a fancy brunch.
  • You can use a vegetable peeler to turn the peels of the asparagus stem into long thin “noodles,” then make a little salad with olive oil-garlic-lemon vinaigrette, some capers and chopped hardboiled egg.

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