Trim off the tough, fibrous portion at the bottom of the asparagus spear. Gently peel up from base, using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, tapering off about 3 inches from the tip; this helps stalks cook evenly from tip to base.
Blanching is the best way to retain color and flavor. Start with a pot large enough to hold the asparagus spears horizontally. Fill the pot ¾ full of water, add a teaspoon of salt per quart of water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover just until the water begins to boil again, then -- to retain the beautiful green color -- remove the lid. (A lid bounces the volatile gases back down into the pot and causes a reaction with the chlorophyll, resulting in olive-green stalks.) Reduce the heat and cook 4 minutes, then begin testing for doneness by piercing spears with a sharp knife. The asparagus is done when just easily pierced.
If you're not using the asparagus immedately in a recipe, plunge it in cold water to stop the cooking process. When spears are completely cold, remove with a slotted spoon to a clean towel placed on a rack; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
You can also use this method to blanch asparagus before adding to stir fry dishes or quick sautes, but remove the spears from water while they are still firm.
Source: Oregonian FoodDay Typos by Dorothy Flatman 1995 Submitted By DOROTHY FLATMAN On 06-21-95
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