Asparagus with Delicious Dip
Don't believe the hype about skinny asparagus. Pencil-thin this and that is everyone's favorite, but not mine. I like the big, fat asparagus, which are the sweetest I think. Also, fatness is not a sign of age: while asparagus do get longer as they get older, they poke out of the ground as thin or fat as they are ever going to be.
Now, I love asparagus roasted in the oven: I toss it with olive oil and salt on a foil-lined baking sheet, then roast them at 450 until they're browning and tender. But when they're super-fresh like this, I find a brief boil the best way to emphasize their mellow sweetness. If you want to serve the asparagus hot, simply omit the dip and the cold-water rinse, then add butter, salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
Yield: Serves 5
Total time: 15 minutes
1 or 2 bunches of very fresh asparagus (the bottoms should look moist and freshly cut)
1/2 cup Hellman's or Best Foods mayonnaise (not reduced-fat)
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 small clove of garlic: cut it open, pull out the green shoot, and then finely chop it or put it through a garlic press
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle puree (see Note below). If chipotles are unavailable, add cumin and paprika to taste for the same smoky flavor
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
- Wash the asparagus in a large sinkful of cold water while you bring an inch of water to a boil over high heat in a very wide pan.
- Now snap the bottom off of each asparagus spear: there will be a place where it naturally wants to break, a couple inches up from the very bottom, and you will feel this if you bend it a bit. Add the asparagus to the boiling water, spreading them out in the pan as best as you can, and cover. Check for doneness starting at 2 minutes: stick the tip of a paring knife into one and see if it feels tender. If not, boil another minute or two, moving them around in the pan with tongs so that they all get a fair shot at submersion.
- Drain the asparagus and run cold water over them until they're cool, then spread them out on a clean dishtowel to dry.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, garlic, chipotle, and salt. Use a cooked asparagus to taste the dip, and re-season it if it needs more salt, chipotle, or lemon juice.
- Then serve and eat!
Note: Chipotles are smoked jalapeno peppers. You can buy them in powdered spice form, but I much prefer juicy, tangy "chipotles in adobo," which you can find in 7-oz tins in the Mexican Foods aisle of your supermarket for two or three dollars. (Brands to look for include Embasa, San Marcos, Herdes, and La Costena.) You want to puree the entire can in the blender, and then store it in your fridge in an impeccably clean glass jar where it will keep indefinitely. A little puree goes a long way, so add it gradually, tasting as you go.