The general technique of pre-blanching vegetables and quickly re-heating them in butter or oil just prior to serving is one that every home entertainer should know.
Asparagus with Mustard Butter
One of the challenges of serving a crowd is getting everything hot at once. This can be especially challenging with the green vegetable. Green vegetables are easy…to overcook. Restaurants and caterers always pre-cook (blanche) their green vegetables and then typically sauté them quickly in butter or oil to heat and flavor. The following approach to asparagus will work for any strudy green vegetable such as broccoli or string beans. Cutting asparagus into 1-inch lengths makes them easier to serve and eat though you sacrifice some of the drama of the long stalks. You can certainly take this same approach to whole asparagus. While these days of jet vegetable travel keep asparagus in neighborhood markets year ‘round, they are a quintessentially a spring vegetable and so lend themselves to Passover and Easter dinners. Asparagus have an affinity for mustard and are done here with mustard butter.
2/3 cup chopped shallots
½ cup chopped parsley
2 pounds asparagus, thick stalks preferred or any sturdy green vegetable
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
½ cup Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoons salt, plus salt for blanching asparagus
½ teaspoon black pepper
Do Ahead Asparagus may be blanched one day ahead and refrigerated. Mustard butter may be made and held in sauté pan up to five hours ahead.
1 Preparing asparagus Snap asparagus several inches from the bottom where the woody part meets the green part. Discard this woody end. If asparagus are thick you may lightly peel from just below the “cluster top” to the bottom. By removing the peel, asparagus become more tender. A reason I prefer thick asparagus is they allow for peeling while with thin asparagus there isn’t enough asparagus stalk to peel. Next, cut asparagus into about 1-inch lengths on a bias. A bias is an angle. Bias cut simply means cut on an angle. It does nothing for flavor, but provides a more interesting and intentional look. To do this simply line up a few asparagus and cut. Don’t worry if every piece is not the exact same length.
2 Blanching asparagus In a medium pot, bring generous amount of salted water to boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Add asparagus to pot and cook for a short time until rawness is gone, but asparagus is still crisp. Cooking length will vary depending on thickness of asparagus. It will take from about a minute for thin asparagus to 2 to 3 minutes for thick. It is best to pull out an asparagus and sample as you go. When cooked, immediately pour water through a strainer and transfer cooked asparagus to ice bath to stop cooking and set color.
3 Making mustard butter Heat butter in a medium sauce or sauté pan over moderate heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently until translucent. Add white wine and mustard and cook to reduce and thicken liquid to consistency of heavy cream. Set aside until ready to add asparagus.
4 To finish Heat mustard butter over moderate heat. Add asparagus and cook over moderate heat until hot. Add parsley and toss with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.