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Asparagus season

By Joshua Dineen, Chef Specialist, Lincoln Land Community College

I remember watching Great Chefs of the World. It was one of my first introductions into haute cuisine. I would rush home from work to learn about new ingredients and how they could be used to make delicious food. The chefs were from all over the globe. It was exciting to see how each of them would combine ingredients and cooking methods to create beautiful dishes. At the time, it seemed like magic to me.

I would go to the grocery store, discovering fresh produce that I had no idea how to use. Several mistakes were made, but it was fun! The first time I cooked asparagus was hysterical. I bought several pounds. The first bit was severely overcooked, but then I figured out how to make it more edible. It wasn’t seasoned correctly, and I didn’t know to prepare anything to go along with it, so I ate so much plain asparagus. Eventually I figured out how to make very simple versions of the foods I saw on television that tasted pretty good. I started recording the shows on a small library of VHS tapes, so I could rewatch and figure out some of the more complex ideas.

Eventually I made my way to culinary school at The Culinary Institute of America. That is when things really started to make sense. I remembered one of the chefs from the TV show made an asparagus mousse. Now I understood how to use this fun idea and build upon it. I blanched the asparagus tips, stood them up in a ring mold. Inside the mold I piped the asparagus mousse. When the mousse set up, it held the tips in place! I was so excited. I made a lemon butter sauce to go along with it.

Asparagus became one of my favorite vegetables. For several years, I had an asparagus patch in my garden. I learned about how they grew, and when and how much to harvest. To get white asparagus, you must continually mound the earth over the growing asparagus to avoid activating the pigment when they are exposed to sunlight. I had both green and purple varieties. As gardeners know, you eventually have more vegetables than you know what to do with.

We ate them with almost every meal. In salads, blanched, broiled, grilled, fried; you name it, we tried it. My family’s favorite version became broiled with Parmesan Reggiano cheese finely grated on top, then drizzled with balsamic reduction, simple and delicious.

It is asparagus season again, which means it is at peak quality for local purchase. These are a couple of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus at home.

Asparagus broiled with parmesan

  • Asparagus
  • Parmesan Reggiano
  • Balsamic glaze, or local honey
  1. Turn on oven to broil setting
  2. Cut the bottom 2 inches off the asparagus-this part is too woody, but makes a great soup if you strain it
  3. Line a sheet pan with foil- this will help with clean up
  4. Place the asparagus on the foil covered tray
  5. Grate the parmesan over the asparagus, generously
  6. Broil the parmesan covered asparagus until golden brown
  7. Remove from the oven
  8. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, or a delicious local honey
  9. Immediately remove asparagus from the foil on to a serving dish, as the parmesan will stick to the foil if it cools.
  10. Enjoy!

Asparagus tempura

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 +/- club soda, this amount may vary a little
  • Asparagus
  • Salt
  1. Heat deep fryer canola oil to 350 degrees or use a Dutch oven with a thermometer, do not fill Dutch oven more than 1/3 full for safety
  2. Combine flour, cornstarch, and club soda
  3. The amount of club soda can vary on your desired outcome. Less club soda with make a thicker heavier breading. More club soda will make a thin and delicate breading
  4. Dip the asparagus into the batter, and then carefully add directly to the hot oil
  5. Cook to a light golden brown
  6. Carefully remove from the oil, onto a wire grate or paper towels
  7. Sprinkle with salt to season
  8. Enjoy right away just as it is, or with your favorite dipping sauce

Asparagus and mushroom omelet

  • Asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped to your preference- your favorite type of mushroom is great, any will work (Morels are currently in season, this would be a fantastic addition if you are able to find them!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1-2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook asparagus in boiling, salted water for three minutes
  2. Remove from boiling water, rinse with cold water to stop cooking, set aside
  3. Sauté mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter, season with salt and pepper
  4. Cook to golden brown, set aside
  5. Combine eggs and 1-2 tablespoon heavy cream, whisk to combine
  6. Add egg mixture and butter to non-stick sauté pan over medium heat, medium/low if you are feeling patient and want no browning on your omelet
  7. Gently stir until eggs start to curdle with a heat proof spatula, smooth out curdles and stop stirring
  8. Top with asparagus and mushrooms
  9. Once the eggs have set, either fold in half, or in the more French style, roll in thirds
  10. Transfer to a plate
  11. If you happen to throw together a hollandaise sauce, it would be delightful with this omelet
  12. Enjoy!

Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value-Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.

Cooking or food questions? Email epicuriosity101@llcc.edu.

 

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