I remember watching Great Chefs of the World. It was one of my first encounters with haute cuisine. I rushed home from work to learn about new ingredients and how they could be used to make delicious food. The chefs came from all over the world. It was exciting to see how each of them combined ingredients and cooking methods to create beautiful dishes. At the time it seemed like magic to me.
I went to the grocery store and discovered fresh produce that I had no idea how to use. Made some mistakes but it was fun! The first time I cooked asparagus I was hysterical. I bought several pounds. The first piece was badly overcooked, but then I figured out how to make it more edible. It wasn’t seasoned properly and I didn’t know how to prepare anything 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 TV that tasted pretty good. I started recording the shows onto a small library of VHS tapes so I could revisit and figure out some of the more complex ideas.
Finally, I made my way to the Culinary Institute of America cooking school. That’s when things really started to make sense. I remembered that one of the chefs on the TV show had made an asparagus mousse. Now I understood how to use and build on this fun idea. I blanched the asparagus tips and put them in a ring shape. I injected the asparagus mousse into the mold. As the mousse rose, it held the tips in place! I was so excited. I made a lemon butter sauce with it.
Asparagus has become one of my favorite vegetables. I had an asparagus bed in my garden for several years. I learned how they grew and when and how much to harvest. To get white asparagus, you need to constantly cover the growing asparagus with soil to avoid activating the pigment when exposed to sunlight. I have had both green and purple varieties. As gardeners know, at some point you will have more vegetables than you know what to do with.
We ate them with almost every meal. In salads, blanched, fried, grilled, fried; You name it, we tried. My family’s favorite version was grilled with finely grated Parmesan Reggiano and then drizzled with balsamic reduction, easy and delicious.
It’s asparagus season again and the best quality for local shopping. These are a few of my favorite ways to cook asparagus at home:
Fried asparagus with parmesan
*Balsamic glaze or local honey
1. Switch on the oven to the grill setting
2. Cut off the bottom part of the asparagus 5cm – this part is too woody but makes a great soup when strained
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 generously over the asparagus
6. Fry 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 the asparagus from the foil and place on a serving plate, as the parmesan will stick to the foil as it cools.
10. Have fun!
*1 cup all-purpose flour
*1 cup of cornstarch
*1 1/3 +/- lemonade, this amount may vary slightly
1. Heat rapeseed oil in the fryer to 350 degrees or use a Dutch Oven with a thermometer, do not fill the Dutch Oven more than 1/3 full for safety reasons
2. Combine flour, cornstarch and lemonade
3. The amount of soda water may vary depending on the desired result. Less lemonade with a thicker, heavier breading. More club soda results in a thin and delicate breading
4. Dip the asparagus in the batter, then gently drop them directly into the hot oil
5. Cook to a light golden brown
6. Carefully remove from the oil, onto a wire rack or paper towels
7. Sprinkle with salt to season
8. Enjoy as is or with your favorite dipping sauce
Omelette with asparagus and mushrooms
* Asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
*Fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped to your liking – your favorite variety is great, any will work (morels are currently in season, these would be a fantastic addition if you could find them!)
*1-2 tablespoons cream
*1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
*Salt and pepper
Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for three minutes
Remove from the boiling water, rinse with cold water to stop cooking, set aside
Sweat the mushrooms in 1 tbsp butter and season with salt and pepper
Bake until golden brown, set aside
Mix the eggs and 1-2 tablespoons of whipped cream, whisk
Add the egg mixture and butter to the nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, medium/low if you are patient and don’t want browning on your omelette
Using a heatproof spatula, stir gently until the eggs begin to curdle, smooth the curd and stop stirring
Garnish with asparagus and mushrooms
Once the eggs have set, either cut in half or in thirds French style
Transfer to a plate
If you happened to make a hollandaise sauce together, it would be delicious with this omelet
Joshua Dineen is a Culinary Specialist at Lincoln Land Community College.
Would you like to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College, through the Culinary Institute, offers associate degree programs in culinary arts and hospitality management, certificates in culinary arts and baking/pastry, and no-credit community classes.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org