Recipe: Roasted Asparagus With Three Sauces
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, tentatively titled “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015. This week, she offers us simple steps for grilling fresh asparagus and three easy sauces with which to spice it up. Whether you prefer your veggies spicy, salty (heretofore known as “yummy”) or mild with a yogurt base, these sauces are perfect for dipping or drizzling.
Let’s be honest. Around here, asparagus season starts not in the garden, but in the grocery store. There I am, stomping the snow off my boots, clutching a shopping list filled with cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and whatever other winter vegetable I’m turning into this week’s “warming” stew that makes my kids groan. I reach for another sweet potato, and then I see it: Asparagus: $1.99 lb
A month ago, asparagus was $4.99 a pound, and it looked like a teenager just home from a European backpacking trip. I didn’t give it a second glance. But this is totally different—bright, velvety green, with each layered top tight and alive. There’s not a withered or droopy stalk in the bunch. I take off my gloves and pick up a bunch so I can feel its greenness. I know it’s not time yet. I know that soon, there will be asparagus in my very own garden. It will be as local and virtuous as it can get. There will be piles of stalks on the counter, and I’ll find ways to put it in every single meal. Soon, soon!
But now, I can’t bring myself to let go of this bunch. I have no idea where it’s from. New Jersey? California? I’m not reading the label. My fingers are already aching to snap off the tough base of each stalk. I’m thinking about herb butters, homemade mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon. I’m already in those five minutes before dinner when I’ve hollered that it’s time to set the table. I’m transferring the asparagus from the hot baking sheet to a plate, tasting as I go (one for me… one for the plate). My family finds me in the kitchen, juice running down my arm, the glimmer of Spring in my eyes…
Local, schmocal. It’s local to somewhere, right? I grab three bunches and run for it.
Roasted Asparagus with Three Sauces
This recipe requires as much asparagus as you think you’ll need, plus an extra bunch. I promise you’ll want more, and if there’s extra, it will be a secret weapon in the fridge to use in pasta, quiche, scrambled eggs, salads, and whatever else you can dream up. Each of the sauce recipes make quite a bit, but any extra sauces can be repurposed as dips and salad dressings in the week ahead.
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rinse the stalks thoroughly under water, and let them drain in a colander. Snap off the tough end of each stalk by gently bending it—it will break at the natural place. You’ll feel like you’re wasting a lot of asparagus, but this eliminates the tough chewy bite of each stalk. Compost the ends, save them for vegetable stock, or slice them to use in scrambled eggs. If the stalks aren’t dry, give them a quick turn in a clean dishtowel as you go. Transfer each stalk to a lightly oiled baking sheet, laying them out in as close to a single layer as possible. If you have too many stalks to fit into one sheet, start a second.
2. Squeeze half a lemon over the stalks. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over that, and then finish with a generous snowsquall of salt. Roast for 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalk. The asparagus is done when it’s bright green, tender, and the feathered top has a slight kiss of blackening on it.
3. While the asparagus roasts, make the sauces. You can serve it with any of these three sauces poured over it, or you can make all three and set them out as dips on the side.
Salty Butter Sauce a.k.a. “Yummy Sauce”
adapted from the Spring Hill Cookbook
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (not baker’s yeast!)
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
Melt the butter over low heat. Add the garlic, yeast, and tamari. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it all comes together and thickens, about 7 minutes.
Creamy Tarragon Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, and lemon juice. Stir in the onions and tarragon, and add salt and pepper to taste.
adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
2 tablespoons chopped anchovies (about 5 of the salt-packed kind)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ dried chile de arbol, minced or ½ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme leaves
heaping ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Add the anchovies and chile and stir with a wooden spoon until the anchovies melt into the sauce, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, take off the heat, and let the garlic finish cooking in the hot olive oil. Add the salt, taste, and add more if necessary.