Orange and Mustard-Marinated Asparagus
I remember what a revelation it was to my mom when she learned to cook asparagus for just 4 minutes. (She’d set a timer — the 4 minutes was sacrosanct.) As a kid, she dreaded seeing it on her plate because it was always cooked to stringy, pale-green mush. But when just tender, and not at all mushy, and vibrantly green, it’s such a pleasing, juicy vegetable. Cooked this way, it’s always been one of my favorites. This method of marinating is one I particularly like for super-fresh, springtime asparagus, but even in the off-season, it does wonders to make it interesting and delicious when it’s not exactly at its peak. You’ll cook it immediately, shock in cold water, then combine with this zesty marinade. The hot, sweet mustard gives the marinade distinction — I love it with my Stovetop Maple-Ale Mustard (see recipe below) — but you can use Dijon or any other hot or horseradish mustard if that’s what you’ve got on hand. — Lukas Volger
Remove the woody ends of the asparagus by bending them in half and letting the ends snap off. Compost the tough ends or reserve them for another use. Wash the asparagus thoroughly by swishing it around in a bowl of water — grit can often be trapped in the tips and little petals along the sides. Set aside the asparagus, rinse out the bowl and prepare an ice bath.
In a pot (or a saucepan that’s wide enough for the asparagus to lie flat), add about a ½ inch of water and bring to a simmer. Fit the pot with a steamer insert, then add the asparagus and cook until just tender — 2 to 3 minutes for skinny spears and 3 to 5 minutes for larger ones. Avoid overcooking them. Transfer to the ice bath to halt the cooking, then drain and blot dry with a kitchen towel.
To prepare the dressing, zest the orange and add to a mixing bowl, then squeeze in 2 tablespoons of its juice. Add the mustard, thyme leaves and salt and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil in a steady stream. Add the asparagus, stir to coat, and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Stovetop Maple-Ale Mustard
In a wide, heat-safe bowl, stir together the mustard powder and vinegar. Let stand for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Pour the beer into a tall measuring glass to allow some of the carbonation to burn off while the mustard powder hydrates. Add the beer, maple syrup, egg yolks and salt to the mustard and whisk until smooth.
Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Create a double boiler situation by placing the bowl directly over the saucepan, allowing the steam generated by the water to heat the bowl beneath it. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water — if it does, simply pour out some of the water. Cook the mustard over the simmering water, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often with a flexible spatula, until thickened to the consistency of hollandaise sauce, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the mustard to a container or jar. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container.
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