Monday, February 20, 2012

Easy Oven Baked Asparagus

One of the first signs of spring has arrived. No, not early crocus blooming, or the Canada geese returned to The Pond. It’s the price of asparagus. While there is always asparagus in the markets, in winter the price reflects its first class airline ticket from somewhere south of the equator. As the season begins in places closer to home, the price begins to fall. That’s when I grab a big bunch and head home to fix it in our favorite way, which is also very, very easy. Nothing to hide the goodness of the asparagus, at least now, for the first taste. When our own garden asparagus comes in later, then I tend to get all fancy with it. But for now, simple and good.

This recipe is a version of one my neighbor Marge found in Gourmet Magazine more than thirty years ago. It may even be exactly the way it appeared, since there is nothing in it but fresh asparagus, butter and salt. Pure, pure asparagus flavor. Try it soon!

Easy Oven Baked Asparagus

1 lb. asparagus, woody stems broken off or trimmed
3T butter, in bits

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the asparagus in a shallow oven safe baking dish, no more than two asparagus deep, dot with butter and salt very lightly. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. You can use a lidded dish, but it needs to be a tight fitting lid. No peeking. Gently toss the asparagus in the butter and juices before serving. Serves 2 to 3. Doubles and triples easily.

Variations: Replace butter with your favorite nut oils, or extra virgin olive oil, or flavored oil. A mixture of good olive oil and white truffle oil is excellent. Use flavored salt, black truffle salt is wonderful on asparagus. Or dust with shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese before baking (cut back on the salt if you use cheese).

Instead of a baking dish, you can also arrange a double layer of asparagus on heavy duty aluminum foil, and proceed with the recipe, sealing it tightly before placing it in the oven. Setting the package on a baking sheet makes it easy to remove from the oven.

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