Steamed Asparagus

Steaming is easier than boiling, more easily controlled, and perfect for asparagus.
TIME 10 to 15 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
1½ pounds asparagus
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

1 Trim the bottoms from the asparagus and peel them if they’re thick. Stand the stalks upright in a stockpot, letting them lean against the sides at an angle. Add enough water to come 1 inch up the sides of the pan and a large pinch of salt. Cover and put the pot over high heat.

2 When the water boils, cook the asparagus for 2 minutes, then check them for the first time. They’re ready when you can easily pierce the thick part of the stalks with a fork; this takes anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the asparagus are.

3 Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter with tongs, shaking them over the pot to remove excess water. Smear them with the butter (or drizzle with the olive oil) and sprinkle with lemon juice, more salt, and some pepper, then serve.

  • Steamed Asparagus with Eggs: Fry • poach or • hard-boil 4 eggs. After you drizzle the spears with butter, put the eggs on top. Skip the lemon juice and try 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves for garnish if you’ve got some.

  • I like both thick and thin asparagus spears, but try to cook spears that are roughly the same size. You can buy a bunch that’s all one size, or you can buy a mixedsize bunch and cook them in batches. Or you can cook everything together and pluck out thinner spears as they become tender. (Or you can be happy with some pieces being more tender than others, which isn’t bad either.)
  • Anything that you can boil you can steam. Vegetables with sturdy stems—like asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower—can steam right in the pot. But for most vegetables, rig a steamer to keep them completely above the water so they don’t get waterlogged.

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