BOILING FRESH ASPARAGUS
Although I often steam asparagus, especially when I’m looking for a crisper, bright green texture and appearance, the best way to make sure every nook and cranny of the tips are sanitized properly is to boil them. I know nobody likes to do that, but it does produce a cleaner, stronger asparagus flavor, and with food-borne illnesses being more prevalent in vegetables than they once were, it’s always good to prep your veggies accordingly.
I found that cooking fresh asparagus is like cooking fresh fish. Do it the day or the day after you purchase them. The tips go bad first, and you might not notice it unless you smell them, which most people don’t do. Fishy means bad, just like it does with fish and mushrooms. If that happens, cut the tips off, wash the remaining stalks after you cut the bottom third off and place in boiling water to cook till tender, but not mushy.
If cooked too long they produce a gelatinous coating that oozes from the surface of the stalks. This is good for soup, because it naturally thickens it, but not good if you want to serve the asparagus tender-crisp for salads, or in stir-fries and sautes.
Although many restaurants char their whole asparagus spears on a grill, most do it after par boiling and refrigerating them. If placed on the grill raw, then the asparagus get dried out and stalky. They’re still okay, especially when swabbed with garlic oil, salt and pepper, but the stalky quality isn’t ideal texture-wise. Then of course, you also risk the tips being spoiled. If you’ve ever had tips that appear shrunken and black, chances are they spoiled. A glass or two of red wine and who cares? Later you will, but probably won’t blame it on the asparagus tips.
Always wash asparagus thoroughly. This is where you examine the tips to make sure they’re fresh. If buying them in a sealed plastic wrap, look carefully at the tips to make sure they’re the same color green as the stalks and the buds are closed tightly. If the buds are loose and dark and shrunken pass them up. Don’t think you can make them better – you can’t.
When you get them home, poke holes in the wrap if you’re leaving them refrigerated overnight. Standing them in water won’t help anything. Buy them one day, use them the next. That’s the rule. That’s as long as you go.
When boiling, it’s imperative that the tips be submerged in the boiling water. Cover and let the stalks steam as they boil. It doesn’t take long – a few minutes tops. Drain immediately. Rinse under cold water if you’re prepping them to use later. Drain, place in covered container and refrigerate till ready to use.
Remember, no more than a day, even if you pre-cook them.