Asparagus is one of those vegetables that people seem to either love or hate. It has been cultivated and eaten at least since ancient times, and is prepared and served in almost as many ways as there are cultures that consume it. The trick with all methods of cooking asparagus is not to overcook it, which is easy to do. Start with tender, young shoots, make sure to snap the woodier bottom ends off, and only cook them just long enough to heat them through and bring out the flavor while still keeping them crisp and crunchy. The result may just convert those who claim they can’t stand the stuff…just at it did me about 15 years ago.
For today’s recipe, we’ll pair our asparagus with some mushrooms, rough-minced fresh garlic, and a little olive oil and fresh rosemary, then roast it in the oven to achieve that “tender-crisp” finish. This dish will go well with an assortment of meals, from pesto salmon to filet mignon.
- One bunch fresh asparagus – look for firm fresh stalks that are not very stringy/woody on the ends
- 5 to 8 white mushrooms, sliced into 4 thick slices each (I really want to try this with some more ‘exotic’ varieties)
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly minced
- Short sprig of fresh rosemary – yield about 2 tbsp minced fresh leaves (discard stem)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1~2 tbsp olive oil (depending on size of the asparagus bunch and number of mushrooms)
Snap the woody bottom ends of the asparagus off by holding each stalk about half-way down in one hand and at the very bottom end with the other thumb and forefinger. Bend until the asparagus breaks off somewhere in the bottom third of the stalk – discarding the bottom end. This is why you want them to be fresh and firm…limp old stalks will just bend like a wet noodle and will taste mushy and stringy when cooked. Cut the mushrooms into four thick slices each (I slice along side each stem, then split down the center of the stem). Add the mushrooms and asparagus to a bowl large enough to hold everything with room for tossing later.
Mince up the garlic and the rosemary leaves and add to the bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over everything, and then add in the olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and shake/toss well to coat everything with the herbs, garlic, and oil. At this point, you can set it aside while you prepare the remainder of the meal, because you won’t have to cook this very long and want to do so just before serving.
About 15 minutes (depending on how fast your oven heats) before the rest of the meal will be ready, preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Spread the asparagus and mushrooms in a single layer on a baking pan, making sure to scrape all of the little pieces of garlic out and scattering them around the pan as well (my bunch of asparagus was pretty small this evening – normally I’ll have about double this).
When the oven is heated, put the pan in on the middle rack and roast about 5 minutes to a maximum of 10 minutes. The mushrooms and garlic will soften and brown a little, while the asparagus will still be pretty firm if poked with a fork. If anything, you want to undercook things just a little, as they will continue to cook on the pan once you remove them from the oven…so go for a little bit on the crisp side when you remove them.
If you timed things right, these will be coming out of the oven right when everything else for dinner is ready as well, and you can serve them right away while they are hot and fresh, along side your meat of choice and maybe a nice salad (or mashed cauliflower). Make sure to get some of the minced garlic too, and Enjoy!