Snapping off the end of each spear is fun, but who knows if it really snaps precisely where the tender part meets the woody part. Plus, you’ll end up with spears of all different lengths; not a huge deal, unless you’re extremely detail-oriented and want your platters of asparagus to lookphoto-shootready.
Slicing off the ends gives you more uniformity, but you’re still left with asparagus nubs not fit for the dish at hand—the cast-offs are either destined for soup or the compost bin.
There is a third option, though, for reducing the likelihood your asparagus-eating will be interrupted with unpleasant stringiness. You can peel them. Amanda Hesser once referred to this technique as “a little old school,” but as we all know by now, "old school" is more compliment than dig. Trendy things that are actually old news come back for a reason.
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We’re not talking about shaving the entire spear, mind you, as would be done for a salad, just peeling away some of their most fibrous parts. Plus, you'll get the added benefit of not having to squirrel the peelings away for later (or feel guilty about composting them): You’re using them right away, to create something equally as delicious as your (now tender) peeled spears—Fried Asparagus Trimmings.
Recipe author (and Food52 recipe tester) Anna Francese Gass says, “You’ll never make asparagus again without peeling off the bottoms.” I know I won't be.
The serving suggestion—“1 to 4”—of her recipe depends on how generous you’re feeling. I selfishly hoarded most of my first batch, deeming them a cook’s treat, devouring each hot, salty strand while shooing my husband out of the kitchen, declaring that dinner wasn’t done yet. If you’re up for sharing, Anna tucks them into sandwiches, piles them on salads and pasta dishes, and tops poached eggs on asparagus spears with the fried trimmings.
The ingredient list is short, but you need to stick to it—there’s no substitute for the Wondra flour. If you can’t find it in your neck of the woods, it is available online.
Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!