Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint

A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.
A classy little asparagus dish that requires barely any time at all.

My favorite way to enjoy asparagus is grilled. The high heat brings out the natural sweetness of the spears, while the lick of smoke makes anything tastier.

But now and again, it’s nice to swap primal and rustic for elegant and lady-like.

That’s where “Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint” comes in.

It’s much like glazed carrots — pan-simmered with a little water and aromatics until the liquid evaporates and turns to steam, leaving behind perfectly tender spears coated with deliciousness.

The recipe is from “All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice” (W.W. Norton, 2019), of which I received a review copy. It’s by award-winning cooking instructor, cookbook author, and recipe developer Molly Stevens.

It’s one of 150 recipes in this indispensable book that offers up approachable and thoughtful dishes for home-cooks that make use of vegetables, grains, meats, fish, and sweets.

The asparagus spears get arrayed in one layer in a skillet, along with butter, and wine. When they’re tender after all of 6 minutes cooking for thick spears (the best kind), remove them before adding fresh orange zest, mint, and chives to the few spoonfuls of liquid in the pan. Drizzle this over the spears and serve hot or at room temperature.

I actually used tangelo zest instead of orange, because that’s what I had on hand. Instead of wine, I also used some of the fresh tangelo juice instead. The citrus and fresh mint really come through, accentuating the taste of spring in this dish.

Grilled asparagus are slap-dash, throw on the grates, and be done, thank you, ma’am. This is ever so more refined — without much added work.

It’s a way to make meal time just a tad more special — even if these days, fancy merely means putting on pants with that sweatshirt.

Dressed up -- even if there's nowhere to go.
Dressed up — even if there’s nowhere to go.

Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint

(Serves 2 or 3)

1 pound asparagus, tough bottoms snapped off, stems peeled if you like

2 to 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 or 3 pieces

2 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth, or tangelo or orange juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground orange or tangelo zest

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

Simmer the asparagus: Arrange the asparagus in a large lidded skillet (such as a 12-inch one). If any spears are too long, cut them in half. Add the butter, wine or vermouth or juice, and 1/3 cup water, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook until the asparagus is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 minutes for skinny spears and up to 6 minutes for thick ones. The spears should remain bright green. With tongs, transfer the asparagus to a serving plate.

Reduce and season the sauce: Add the zest to the pan liquid and simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid barely covers the bottom of the skillet, about 1 minute. Stir in the herbs and taste for seasoning.

Serve: Pour the sauce over the asparagus. Serve hot or warm.

Adapted from “All About Dinner” by Molly Stevens

Another Molly Stevens Recipe to Enjoy: Roasted Savoy Cabbage Wedges, Caesar-Style

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