Monday, April 14, 2008

Panko Crusted Asparagus

Excuse me while I ramble a bit. I promise I'll eventually get to the Panko Crusted Asparagus.

I don't always feel comfortable at parties. Much of it has to do with me being an introvert, so when I attend a party I feel like a vegetarian at a BBQ - I feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and out of place. I also spend a lot of time worrying about appearing interesting to the other guests. I guess, I'm still that junior high boy wearing corduroy pants who's approaching the cute girl at the junior high dance. At age 38, you'd think I'd be over this by now.

By now you're wondering what this Oprah-like confession has to do with asparagus. Well, my friends, when I'm socializing I imagine scenarios like the following:

I'm at a party and someone approaches me and asks, "How do you prepare your asparagus?"

I reply, "Well, I simply steam it."

Then there's an awkward silence. The individual finishes his/her drink, searching for a way to escape any more conversation with a boring guy who thinks steaming asparagus is the best and most interesting way to prepare it."
I know this is a bit strange. My friends, welcome to my world. I live inside my head too often, and I do imagine such scenarios. I know I shouldn't care what others think about the way I prepare asparagus, but I do. I don't want to be a close-minded dolt who refused to expand his culinary horizons.

I'll be honest with you. I do like my vegetables prepared simply. I'm the guy who cringes when someone dips a piece of broccoli in ranch dressing. Please don't deep fry, glaze, or drizzle a sauce over my vegetables. I like my vegetables naked. I want their full unadorned glory and nutritional value to shine down on me because I believe salvation can be found in a plate of well, prepared vegetables.

With the abundance of asparagus in the local markets, I've decided to dedicate myself this week to finding new ways to prepare asparagus and incorporate this wonderful vegetable into my culinary repertoire. Today's recipe is from Bon App├ętit and possesses a very unwieldy title, Roasted Sesame-Panko Crusted Asparagus. Therefore, I condensed the title.

Panko-Crusted Asparagus

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger, divided
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, bottom 2/3 of each spear peeled
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce*
  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Whisk mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in pie dish. Mix panko and sesame seeds in another pie dish. Toss asparagus in mayonnaise mixture to coat (This part was extremely painful for me to do), then roll in panko mixture. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Roast until browned, turning once, about 16 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk 1 teaspoon water, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, remaining 3 teaspoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl for sauce.
  • Transfer asparagus to platter; sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with sauce.

*Available in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

My final verdict: I couldn't bring myself to drizzle my glorious asparagus with sauce. Rolling it in mayo traumatized me enough, so I drew the line when it came to drizzling. Much of the panko fell off during the cooking process. I wish it would have browned and coated more evenly.

This flavor wasn't bad, but I don't think it trumped plain ol' steam asparagus. Nothing beats the simplicity of nude asparagus. I don't think I'll prepare this recipe again.

Wednesday, I'll try an asparagus salad that is much simpler and mirrors my cooking philosophy.

Take care,

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