The kindest cut.


thinly sliced asparagus with crispy ginger and toasted sesame seeds
Photography by Matt Hocking

Last month I hosted a Chopped-style cooking competition at an apartment building here in Washington, DC. The residents broke up into teams of four or five and, using a palate of fresh, seasonal ingredients and a diverse pantry prepared a dish. The ranged from good to downright delightful and each one had laudable qualities (really, this isn’t just me being nice).

One of the dishes, not a winner that evening but perhaps the one I remember the best, featured asparagus thinly sliced on the bias. The cut was not only charming visually on the plate but offered lots of surface area to carry the sauce to my mouth.

The next Tuesday at my bi-weekly recipe development testkitchen, I still could not get that cut out of my mind. Armed with a fat knob of ginger I sliced it thinly and fried it until crispy then sautéed asparagus cut on that same sharp bias in the fragrant, infused oil. Glazed with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, brightened with cider vinegar – offering a bit more acidity that the rice vinegar I had reached for at first – and topped with toasted sesame seeds the dish was simple, delicious and beautiful on the plate.

I often say that if knife skills are the one thing between you and making a dish then just cut your ingredients in bigger pieces and cook them a bit longer. I will say it again with this dish. The flavors are too good to skip an attempt just because you think it will take too long.

But, if you’ve got the knife skills, or a little extra time, than slice your asparagus thinly on a sharp bias. The cut is elegant both on the plate and your palate. And worth a little extra time.

Slivered asparagus with crispy ginger

Serves 6

the ingredients for asparagus with crispy ginger. Ginger, asparagus, black sesame seeds
Photography by Matt Hocking

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2” ginger cut unto thin slivers
  • 2 lbs asparagus cut on  the diagonal into 1” pieces
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp crushed Szechuan pepper*
  • Cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs black or white sesame seeds 

*Find this in the international aisle of your grocery store, a local Asian market or online. I like shopping at North Market Spices LTD.

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a 12” skillet over med heat. Add ginger and cook until crispy and light brown. Remove to paper towels leaving oil in skillet. 
  • Return skillet to med-high heat. When oil is shimmering add asparagus and cook until crisp tender, 3-4 min. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and toss to glaze. 
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with Szechuan pepper, salt and a splash of vinegar. Serve sprinkled with black sesame seeds.

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