Question. How do you get kids to love asparagus. Answer. Cover it is Parmesan. During a recent episode of Cook’s Country, Chris Kimball got it exactly right, when he said that this is a “perfect recipe for people who don’t like asparagus”. The toasted Parmesan topping adds a wonderful nutty flavor, and the asparagus is perfectly cooked. This is a perfect 5-star recipe; taste-wise I can find no flaws whatsoever. The only drawback to the recipe is that, as only a side-dish, it makes a huge mess. Between sheet pans, bowls and cutting boards, I counted 8 items that I had to wash by hand (things that didn’t fit in the dishwasher). Below, I slightly reorganized the original recipe to get that number down to 5 core items. While the recipe was presented as a Holiday Meal (when presumably you might have some help in the kitchen), I made it on a weekday after work and faced my after-dinner-kitchen-mess solo.
- Of course, when you go to the supermarket some bunches of asparagus are pencil-thin and others are plump. Cooks country did testing and determined that thin asparagus are better only when steaming. Thick asparagus are better when broiling and sauteing. So bottom line is that you should avoid thin asparagus for this recipe.
- The original recipe called for 2 pounds of asparagus, which will serve 6 people as a side dish. Because I only needed to serve 3 people, I cut the recipe in half. And because I cut the recipe in half, I didn’t have to divide the cheese/bread crumbs mixture in half; a step they recommend because it would become too gooey after dredging 2 pounds.
- Chris Kimball estimates that 1-1/2 ounces of Parmesan would equal 3/4 cup, but because I used a microplaner I got 1-1/4 cup.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 5:15 PM. Ready: 6:00 PM
Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:
1 pound asparagus (1/2”-thick)
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cups)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon honey
- Trim away the tough, woody ends of the asparagus. Melt the butter in the microwave for 45 seconds and allow to cool.
- Use a fork to poke holes all over both sides of each asparagus stalk, placing in a pie plate until finished poking the rest of the asparagus. Evenly sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon table salt, and place on rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, use a paper towel to wipe out the pie plate and add 1/2 cup (about 2/3 of your total Parmesan), 1/3 cup panko, melted butter, 1/8 teaspoon table salt, a pinch of ground pepper and cayenne. (If you are cooking 2 pounds of asparagus, empty half of the mixture into a separate bowl, and refresh the cheese mixture after dredging half the asparagus.) Set an oven rack in the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees.
- After 30 minutes has elapsed, use a standing or hand mixer to bring egg white and honey to soft peak, then use rubber spatula to empty into 13”x9” baking dish. Pat asparagus dry and put into egg whites. Use tongs to gently toss until evenly covered, but working quickly because the salt will deflate the egg whites.
- Remove the paper towels from rimmed baking sheet and line with aluminum foil; spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Dredge the asparagus, one stalk at a time, through the cheese mixture, pressing so that the mixture sticks to each stalk. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. (Again, if cooking 2 pounds of asparagus be sure to refill with reserved cheese/bread crumbs when dredging the second pound)
- Place baking sheet in 450-degree oven for about 7 to 8 minutes, until it just beginning to brown. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan on top and continue baking for another 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese becomes melted and golden brown. Transfer to platter. Serve.