Iron Skillet Asparagus with Roasted Shallots and Orange-Mustard Dressing

by Kirke on May 1, 2013

Iron-Skillet-Asparagus-cover-shot-for-web

Serves 4-5 people

For Orange-Mustard Dressing

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, strained, simmered, and reduced to 1/2 cup
1 Tbs. minced shallot
1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
1 Tbs. whole grain mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup good quality apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Method:

Reduce the fresh orange juice by simmering in a sauce pan, and then let it cool down.

Mix all the ingredients in a deep bowl with high sides, except for the olive oil. Using an immersion blender, puree for a 20-30 seconds. Slowly add the olive oil with the blender running until all is added. I like it pretty tangy, but try it and adjust seasoning and/or oil to your taste. You can use a food processor if you don’t have a hand held blender.

Cover and store at room temperature until ready to use, up to 5 days. The dressing will maintain an emulsion for a few days. Cover and refrigerate for longer periods up to one month. If the dressing separates, re-blend and it should hold the emulsion once again.

For the Asparagus

For us lucky folks living on the west coast of the United States local asparagus season begins in April, while much of the country is still trying to stay warm from spring showers sometimes even mixed with snow. I would like to offer a recipe for these poor souls suffering from April showers and chilling winds blowing across the plains, one with asparagus as a harbinger of spring, oranges to remind us that winter isn’t quite over, and warmth from iron skillet cookery to warm their innards on early spring evenings.

Ingredients:

3-5 each large asparagus per person
4 each medium size fresh shallots
4 Tbs. pure olive oil
1/2 cup naval orange segments
pinch of sea salt
to taste freshly ground black pepper

Warm plates for serving

Method:

If you would like, earlier in the week you could prep the Orange-Mustard Dressing according to instructions above. The resulting emulsified dressing should maintain its suspension.

On the day you are going to serve the asparagus prepare some orange segments. Look for organic navel oranges lingering in the market from the winter crop. Instead of trying to verbally describe the technique; please take a look at this FineCooking.com YouTube channel video:

 

For the Roasted Shallots

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Take each shallot and cut off the root end. Firmly squeeze with your fingers, and remove any loose shallot peels, but leaving at least one layer of peel. This is not an exact procedure, and you could roast the shallots completely peeled, but this method is easier and maybe even more fun, as you will see.

Place the shallots in an iron skillet and toss them with 2 Tbs. of olive oil. Roast them in the oven for 40 minutes. During the cooking, give them a stir once or twice. The shallots should give easily to pressure when done. Let them cool before handling. See how I do it:

Roasting Shallots
Roasting Shallots
Click To Play

 

While the shallots are roasting you can prep the asparagus.

Pick smooth, thumb thick asparagus possibly shipped from the Sacramento River Delta, where world class asparagus is grown, organic if you can find it.

Wash the asparagus well and pat dry. For an attractive presentation, trim the asparagus by cutting on a bias just above the stem, where the green color becomes uniform. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the thick stalks down to the tender pale interior. You may substitute pencil size asparagus, in which case peeling becomes unnecessary and cooking time should be reduced by half. Watch this how to video:

Part 2 Cutting and Peeling
Part 2 Cutting and Peeling
Click To Play

 

Once the shallots are cool enough to handle, the fun part I promised can begin. Take each shallot and squeeze the pointed ends with your fingers, kind of like a tube of tooth paste, popping the shallot flesh into a bowl. Pinch off any remaining skin. Set the cleaned shallots aside. Discard the peels. Observe me having fun:

Part 3 Squeezing Shallots
Part 3 Squeezing Shallots
Click To Play

 

With a paper towel, wipe out any shallot skin sticking to the iron skillet, but do not wash it out. You want to utilize any caramelized bits left in the skillet as flavor enhancers.

Place the iron skillet over a medium flame. Before it starts to smoke, add 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Then add asparagus in a single layer. If the amount you are preparing does not fit in one layer, cook the vegetable in batches. Turn the asparagus once or twice while cooking, letting it brown lightly. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Be very careful not to overcook the asparagus. If it seems like it is taking too long to brown, turn up the heat. Each person’s stove top burner has different fire-power, so I hesitate giving a cooking time. The asparagus should give slightly when you poke it with your finger (but don’t burn yourself!). Asparagus, when done to perfection, should have a slight crunch when you take a bite, and not be totally limp. Remove the cooked asparagus to a towel and keep them warm. Watch the following video to see how I do it:

Part 4 Cooking Asparagus
Part 4 Cooking Asparagus
Click To Play

 

To make the shallot sauce:

  • Place the iron skillet on a medium heat once more without cleaning the pan.
  • Add the roasted shallots, toss for a moment or two.
  • Add 3-4 Tbs. of Orange-Mustard Dressing and then add the orange segments.
  • Turn off the burner and stir with a wooden spoon, knocking off any bits of goodness that might be sticking to the skillet.
  • Add another tablespoon or two of dressing.
  • Taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too acidic or oily, add more oil or vinegar, respectively.

 

 

To serve, place from 3 to 5 spears of asparagus on the warm plates you have prepared.

Divide the roasted shallot mixture evenly among the servings. Please note: in my video you will notice I demonstrate plating two servings using enough ingredients for at least twice that number. The recipe proportions work better when serving 3 spears of asparagus per person, or 4-5 people per recipe.

Drizzle a few drops of the Orange-Mustard Dressing decoratively around the plate. Serve right away and love it!

 

Part 6 Plating Asparagus
Part 6 Plating Asparagus
Click To Play

Leave a Comment

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

joy May 5, 2013 at 8:10 am

Well, that explains a lot! I never knew that peeling asparagus was an option! Can’t wait to try this one ! Thanks

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