Asparagus doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. Lemon Butter Asparagus is as simple as it gets – gently sauteed asparagus in a little butter with lemon juice and zest. Bright and refreshing; a perfect spring and summer side!
What can one say about asparagus? Not too much, I’m afraid, except for the fact that it’s delicious and oh, so simple! Most cooks will blanch the asparagus first before cooking, but I prefer not to blanch the asparagus. I find that it overcooks it, and besides, fast frying this delicate delight will most certainly bring out the bright green colour. And isn’t that the point of blanching? (Kinda!) Well, I digress!
As an FYI, or a public service announcement, allow me to introduce you, the home cook, to the term blanching. Contrary to popular belief, blanching is not a term used to describe the act of playing the role of Blanche on the Golden Girls. Nope, no matter how badly you want to be her and look for any excuse to take on her persona, in the culinary world, blanching does not refer to adopting a southern accent, dressing provocatively, having loose morals, or using your sexuality to get what you want.
Blanching is a cooking process where food, usually a fruit or a vegetable, is submerged in boiling water and left to partially cook for a just a minute or two. The timing is very brief and is done so on purpose as to not overcook the vegetable. In essence, by blanching a vegetable, you are doing so to partially cook it, remove any strong taste or odours, such as in cabbage or onions, and to revitalize the vegetable and bring back its bright, vibrant colour.
Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the vegetables and push them down into the water. After a minute or two, remove the vegetable and immediately plunge them into a large bowl of ice cold water. In fact, the colder the water, the better the result. Fill a large bowl half way up with water and then add a bunch of ice. When you add the blanched veggies to the bowl of water, ideally, there should still be ice floating in there as well. This is called an ice bath and should be set up before you add the veggies to the boiling water.
This step shocks the vegetables, stops the cooking process, and locks in that glorious colour. Now, Dear Reader, if that all seems like too much work for just a bit of asparagus, don’t worry about it. This particular Lemon Butter Asparagus recipe does nto require any blanching whatsoever. The hot pan, the acidic lemon juice, and the fast cooking process will take care of all of those blanching goals for you.
When all is said and done, Lemon Butter Asparagus is and tastes exactly like what the name suggests. You’ve got long spears of asparagus that are bright green, cooked all the way through, yet crisp and firm. You’ve got a slightly salty flavour from the butter, along with a creamy, glossy look and feel. And, of course, you have that bright, refreshing blast of lemony goodness from both the lemon juice and the lemon zest. What more could you ask for?
This Lemon Butter Asparagus dish was so good that I ate the whole thing. I’m serious, Dear Reader! Of all the asparagus you see in that skillet, I did not share one single bite with anyone. I ate all of it and I don’t regret it one bit!
Before you get to the recipe though, here’s a little bit of trivia for you. Did you know that asparagus has been used as a vegetable and as a medicine? It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian piece of art dating to 3000 BC. In ancient times, it was also known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter; Romans even froze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action. A recipe for cooking asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’ third-century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. Quite this history this little vegetable has, don’t you agree?
To assist with this recipe, consider using the following tools:
- 12″ metal tongs – keep the asparagus moving; this will prevent overcooking and discolouration of your new favourite side dish!
- Stainless Steel Skillet – I love this skillet! It’s the same one I’ve used to prepare this dish and it’s rather inexpensive too!
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Lemon Butter Asparagus
- 20 spears asparagus, washed and trimmed
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 whole lemon, zested
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teapsoon salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- In a cast iron skillet - you MUST use a cast iron skillet when sautéing asparagus; I swear it adds to the overall flavour - over medium high heat, melt the butter and olive oil.
- Once sizzling, add the asparagus, salt and pepper.
- Using tongs, gently turn the asparagus in the butter.
- Sauté for 3-5 minutes.
- Once done, turn off the heat and add the fresh lemon zest and fresh lemon juice.
- Turn the asparagus gently to coat with the zest and juice.
- Serve immediately!
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