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Start With Fresh Asparagus
Fresh asparagus is a delectable spring treat, but if it isn't properly trimmed or prepared, the woody stems can be a real culinary drag. Even supremely tender, freshly harvested asparagus has some woody element starting somewhere down the stem, so take care and trim them well. This bend-and-snap method is a super easy way to make sure any asparagus you serve up has that great tender asparagus texture.
Snapping is a quick and easy way to get asparagus ready to cook. While peeling asparagus yields a more elegant presentation, as well as more edible asparagus, in the final analysis, snapping is faster. Way faster.
No matter which method you use, be sure to start with fresh asparagus. Look for firm spears with tight, compact heads and cut ends that aren't too dried out. As with almost all vegetables, choose asparagus that feels heavy for its size to avoid ending up with dried out or flavorless asparagus. Avoid wrinkled stems, dropping heads, browned ends, or dried out anything.
Despite what many people think, thinner asparagus spears are not necessarily more tender than fatter ones. The thickness of the spear depends on how old the plant from which the spear grows is (asparagus plants will produce asparagus for many years, and aren't even productive for their first few years). In fact, many people find that well-grown, freshly harvested fat spears are much more tender than any pencil-thin spear at the market.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Bend Each Asparagus Spear Until It Snaps
If you want to rinse and pat the asparagus dry before you start, you can, or you can wait and just rinse the trimmed pieces.
Work with one asparagus spear at a time:
- Pick up an asparagus spear and hold it firmly on each of its ends—really on its ends.
- Start to bend it up and a bit away from yourself by pulling both ends down and a bit towards you.
- Keep gently bending the asparagus until it snaps.
Each spear will snap in its own place. When done properly, with some finesse that lets the asparagus break where it wants to, a sort of magic occurs in which each spear snaps off right above the spot where the asparagus turns woody.
Repeat with the remaining spears, setting the trimmed asparagus and the trimmed-off stem ends in separate piles.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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Snapped and Trimmed Asparagus Spears
As you can see above, each asparagus spear will naturally break off at its own point. Discard the cut stem ends; the tops are ready to use.
Once trimmed, you can use asparagus trimmed this way in pretty much any asparagus recipe. The casual effect of the different lengths and snapped ends of asparagus trimmed this way is obviously good for recipes in which the asparagus is chopped, as previously mentioned, but it's also dandy for easy, rustic dishes such as Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Asparagus.
Go to How to Cook Asparagus for more ideas and great asparagus recipes.