Serve these deliciously crunchy spears as a satisfying side dish or appetizer–they can be finger food. For a delicious, gluten-free option, substitute crushed Rice Chex for the panko. (Trust me, it works!)
A few years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. The story chronicles a real-life family that vows to buy food locally, grow it themselves, or do without for an entire year. There was much consternation over when to start this process but, in the end, it was decided that they would begin when local asparagus was available.
As our growing season starts to sprout, I think back to this story. In many ways, asparagus is a harbinger of spring–a delicious teaser of the many fruits and vegetables soon to bombard us. While I’ve never taken on such a challenge, I am fortunate to live in an area where, at least during the growing months, eating locally feels more like a blessing than a burden.
Somewhat by necessity, Kingsolver’s family consumed so much asparagus that year they had no desire to buy it when it was no longer a local option. I tend to be much the same way with this particular vegetable. The season is short, so dig in!
For a alternate, super-simple preparation, toss asparagus with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, and then sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Roast in a single layer for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, at 400 degrees to yield perfect spears–bright green and still boasting a bit of snap. (Test for doneness a couple minutes early by piercing the thick end of the stalk with the tip of a sharp knife.) For a French country-inspired meal, top the roasted asparagus with an over-easy or poached egg and sprinkle with a bit of crisp prosciutto. (Click here for that recipe.)
- ¼ cup (56g) mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons (30g) Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) lemon juice (when caught lemon-less, I have omitted or substituted ½ teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup panko*
- Olive oil or olive oil spray
- 1 pound thick asparagus (about 2 bunches)
Preheat the oven to 450℉, and snap off the tough ends of the asparagus stalks.
On top of a flat dinner plate, whisk together the mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Place breadcrumbs on another plate.
Grease a large, rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Roll asparagus in the yogurt mixture to coat, then in the crumbs so the spears are well breaded. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet as you go. Prep ahead tip: At this point, the asparagus may be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 2 hours before baking.
Lightly drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, or for a more even coating, spray lightly with an olive oil mister. Roast the asparagus for 8-12 minutes, depending on thickness. Thinner spears may require as little as 5-6 minutes total. The spears should be golden brown and tender but still have some bite. Check early by poking the thick end with the sharp point of a knife; it should slide in with a hint of resistance. If you’d like more golden brown color, move the baking sheet to the top rack when still slightly undercooked and broil, watching very carefully so as not to burn, for 1-2 minutes.
* Instead of all mayonnaise, a mix of 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (2% or whole preferred) and 2 tablespoons mayo may be used. In this case, reduce the lemon juice to ½ teaspoon.
◦ For a gluten-free option, crushed Rice Chex was used instead of panko in this photo and no one knew the difference! Alternatively, gluten-free panko may be used.