My New Favorite Way to Cook Asparagus Happened by Accident

It also happens to be the best way.

June  6, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

Of all the methods for roasted vegetables with browned edges and perfectly tender, not-at-all overcooked insides—leaving the cut vegetables in the fridge to dry out overnight, as you would a chicken; forgoing the foil and the parchment; sticking with a high temperature; positioning your baking sheet in the hottest part of your oven—the one I find myself employing most often is an accident of circumstance.

Our kitchen is so small, you see, that we store the baking sheets inside the oven. That means that when we forget, as we often do, to take them out of the oven before we turn it on, we find ourselves with scalding-hot pans—dangerous if you forget to use oven mitts to remove them, but brilliant if you’re looking to get a nice browned edge on your vegetables without the insides turning to mush.

Preheated sheet pans are particularly useful when dealing with asparagus, which has a tendency to go soft and—I’ll say it—a little mushy. But when the stalks hit a hot baking sheet, they immediately start sizzling and browning, taking on a beautiful color without getting too soft.

When the asparagus is nearly finished, I shower it with grated Gruyère (Parmesan or Manchego would also be good) and switch the oven to broil to melt the cheese into a lacey web and drill down on the crisp asparagus tips. And since I firmly believe that asparagus—naturally grassy and sweet—needs acid, salt, and crunch to be its best self, I make a garlicky topping of panko and walnuts as the asparagus cooks, and finish with lots of lemon zest and juice.

It’s fun to eat it off the baking sheet, plucking it stalk by stalk, but if you’re at that point in asparagus season when the vegetable is no longer exciting enough to hold its own, try serving it over a bowl of barley mixed with olive oil and lemon juice, buttered orzo, yogurt blended with basil, or a thick slice of garlic-rubbed toast.

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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


OldGrayMare June 9, 2019
Just got a bunch this morning. Was planning on putting in a frittata with peas, but cheese? Panko? Walnuts? Oh to heck with the frittata.....scrambled with this riff sounds perfect for (another!) steamy Florida evening!
Nancy June 6, 2019
I've done something similar for years, learned from a friend, with a hot wok, asparagus lightly trimmed and cut on the bias in sticks about 3 inches long, finished with lemon juice and salt.
Will try your version - looking forward to the cheese notes, panko & walnut crunch.