FAT ASPARAGUS WITH TARRAGON, CHIVES, AND TOASTED BREADCRUMBS
Be sure to buy the fattest spears you can find and trim away the toughest parts at the bottom of the stalk—press your fingernail into the skin in a few places, and when it no longer pierces through easily, cut that part away and use it for stock. Then, holding each spear by the tip, laying it flat on a board, use a good, sharp vegetable peeler to peel it from tip to tail (I’m partial to the inexpensive, Y-shaped Swiss plastic Kuhn Rikon brand). After doing a few spears, you’ll find your rhythm, and the job will go fairly quickly. The peelings are also a great addition to vegetable stock, so save those, too.
Slowly cooking the now-skinless fat asparagus in butter and olive oil renders the stalks soft, sweet, and tender. Licorice-scented tarragon and fragrant, oniony chives and their blossoms (when available) are made for asparagus, and the sprinkle of buttery breadcrumbs on top adds a bonus, salty crunch.
1 bunch local asparagus, purple or green, spears as fat as you can find
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 chive blossom (if available), petals pulled apart
½ lemon, for serving
fleur de sel or Maldon salt, for serving
1 cup Essential Toasted Breadcrumbs, for serving (see recipe on page 30)
Trim the woody ends off the asparagus, about 1 inch from the bottom. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel away the tough green or purple skin of each spear from just below the tip all the way to the bottom, revealing the tender, bright green flesh below.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter, and when the butter melts, add the asparagus. Season with salt + pepper and sauté, shaking the spears around in the pan, until some parts have lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add half the chopped herbs, lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until tender, another 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the cooked asparagus to a platter and sprinkle with lemon juice, the remaining herbs, and the finishing salt. Scatter with toasted breadcrumbs and shower with chive blossom flowers, if using, and serve immediately.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org