Sometimes when I learn something new in the kitchen I feel embarrassed that I hadn't figured it out sooner. Cooking asparagus was that way. Sure, I knew how to high-heat roast it, and I loved that technique. But when I wasn't roasting asparagus, I'd slide back to blanching the spears. Then, while working on a story a few years ago, Carlo Mirarchi, the chef at Roberta's, showed me the right way. As he noted, blanching does little but drain asparagus's flavor, and they're no longer so tough that they need blanching anyway. A much better method is to saute them in oil or butter (or some combination thereof). They cook through quickly and retain all their flavor.
Shop the Story
That's what I do now. And so should you (when you're not roasting them). To celebrate my asparagus enlightenment, I'd like to share with you two recipes that involve sauteing and not much other work. One calls for pancetta, the other for chiles and lemon -- all of my most reliable friends in the kitchen. Happy spring.
Asparagus with Pancetta
Serves 3 to 4 (add a poached egg and it serves 2 for dinner)
One 1/4-inch-thick slice pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.