Thursday, March 5, 2015

Asparagus With Mushrooms

When I walked past this asparagus in the supermarket I had to buy two bundles because the spears are so small. That may sound counter intuitive to some but the smaller the spears the more tender they are.

Looking for something different to do with asparagus I decided to add sauteed mushrooms. These aren't just any mushrooms, this is how Julia Child taught me to make mushrooms in her book Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Thinly sliced and browned on both sides, I think this is the closest any food can ever come to tasting like bacon. One of these days I may cook up a bunch just so I can snack on them.

 If you know anything about Julia you know that she cooked with lots of butter. Since I have a horrible reaction to dairy I thankfully have found a replacement. Nutiva makes a shortening (non-hydrogenated and sustainable) that is a combination of coconut oil, palm oil, and red palm oil. The red palm oil gives it a slight buttery flavor and it has a high smoke point. I've tried but I'm simply not one of those people who can use coconut oil in every dish, especially savory ones. Whether you use butter, ghee, bacon fat, or shortening my husband and I decided that THIS is the way to eat asparagus.

3T Nutiva shortening
6 cremini mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2t salt
1/2C water
bunch of asparagus with the woody ends trimmed off.

Melt the fat of your choice in a skillet. Add the thinly sliced mushrooms and 1/4t of salt to the hot oil and cook until browned on both sides.

Remove the mushrooms and add the asparagus and remaining salt to the pan. Stir the asparagus around so that each spear is coated in fat. Add water to the pan to steam the asparagus and cover with a lid.

Cast iron skillets don't typically come with lids. In the past I have used larger lids to cover the pan but condensation eventually begins to drip onto the stove top. One of my new favorite kitchen gadgets is this silicone sunflower in the photo below. You can use it for an airtight seal on bowls or on hot items such as a pot on the stove. I'm saving on plastic wrap and avoiding drips on the stove. Brilliant!

Remove the lid periodically to stir the asparagus. You are aiming for bright green and tender stalks that aren't mushy and complete evaporation of the water added to the pan. When the stalks are bright green there shouldn't be much water remaining. If there is a bit you can remove the lid to let it evaporate if the asparagus is nearly cooked. If the asparagus is completely cooked simply remove it from the pan and don't worry about the water. We don't want to overcook your asparagus.

Top the asparagus with the cooked mushrooms.