Steamed asparagus with brown butter sauce
3 pounds asparagus, thickest you can find
6 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons minced chervil mixed with 1 tablespoon minced parsley, or 3 tablespoons minced parsley
1. Cut off the tough bases of the asparagus about 11/2 inches from the bottom, leaving the stalks as close to equal in length as possible. (Discard the tough ends.) Peel the asparagus: Using a vegetable peeler, start about an inch below the tip area and peel toward the base, increasing the pressure as you go, so you take more peel at the tougher end. There should be no dark green peel left below the tip area.
2. Tie the asparagus in a bundle with cotton twine. Bring water to a boil in the bottom of a deep steamer. When the water is boiling rapidly, place the asparagus in the steamer basket and cover tightly. Cook until the asparagus is tender enough to be easily pierced with a sharp knife and wiggle slightly when shaken, 7 to 8 minutes.
3. While the asparagus is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter has begun to darken slightly and take on a nutty color and aroma. Do not let the butter scorch. As soon as the butter has turned nutty brown, remove the pan from the heat and squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lemon through a strainer into the butter. It will sizzle, so be careful. Taste and add more lemon if the flavor isn't sharp enough. Add about half the herbs and set aside.
4. When the asparagus is cooked, place a dish towel on a serving platter and lay the bundled spears on top. Cut the twine and let the asparagus roll free. Blot gently with the towel to remove any excess moisture.
5. Carefully remove the towel and pour the butter mixture over the asparagus. Toss gently with tongs to evenly coat with the butter. Sprinkle on the remaining herbs to taste and season generously with sea salt. Serve warm.