I remember what a revelation it was to my mom when she learned to cook asparagus for just 4 minutes. (She’d set a timer—the 4 minutes was sacrosanct.) As a kid, she dreaded seeing them on her plate because they were always cooked to stringy, pale-green mush. But when just tender, and not at all mushy, and vibrantly green, it’s such a pleasing, juicy vegetable. Cooked this way, it’s always been one of my favorites. This method of marinating it is one I particularly like for super-fresh, springtime asparagus, but even in the off-season, it does wonders to make it interesting and delicious when it’s not exactly at its peak. You’ll cook it immediately, shock in cold water, then combine with this zesty marinade. The hot, sweet mustard gives the marinade distinction—I love it with my Stovetop Maple-Ale Mustard—but you can use Dijon or any other hot or horseradish mustard if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
- Remove the woody ends of the asparagus by bending them in half and letting the ends snap off. Compost the tough ends or reserve them for another use. Wash the asparagus thoroughly by swishing them around in a bowl of water—grit can often be trapped in the tips and little petals along the sides. Set aside the asparagus, rinse out the bowl, and prepare an ice bath.
- In a pot (or a saucepan that’s wide enough for the asparagus to lie flat), add about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Fit the pot with a steamer insert, then add the asparagus and cook until just tender—2 to 3 minutes for skinny spears, and 3 to 5 minutes for larger ones. Avoid overcooking them. Transfer to the ice bath to halt the cooking, then drain and blot dry with a kitchen towel.
- To prepare the dressing, zest the orange and add to a mixing bowl, then squeeze in 2 table- spoons of its juice. Add the mustard, thyme leaves, and salt, and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil in a steady stream. Add the asparagus, stir to coat, and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Lukas Volger is a cookbook author and editor. He co-founded Jarry, an award-winning queer food journal, and his most recent book is Start Simple. For more information, visit lukasvolger.com or @lukasvolger on Instagram.