Technique #105 Asparagus Stew (Ragout d'Asperges)

This is technique #105 Asparagus Stew a.k.a. Ragout d'Asperges from Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques. Are y'all tired of me blabbing about Pepin's book? Well tough, suck it. I'm obsessed and his book will have me on TV by the time I've gone through all his techniques.

I really don't know if it should be called asparagus "stew". The quotation marks means that "stew" is what them there fancy peoples call it. But when I think "stew" I think 1)brown and 2)long cooked. This is more of a. .. .um.....saute? no.....poach? no.....braise? no.....ok,well its something. A wee bit of water, plenty of butter (of course), and really short cooking time. This is actually a really fast and delicious side to have with just about anything.

Ever since I realized there aren't a lot of foodies or contestants on Top Chef whose repertoire is confined to corn dogs and microwave mac and cheese I knew I was going to have to try new foods. After turning my nose up at asparagus for years (Green foods = Scary) I found out I actually looooooove asparagus.
Wow! I actually took this great picture of Asparagus. 
Up until now all of my asparagus cooking has been almost exclusively in the roasting categories. Snap the asparagus, a little olive oil, pepper, and salt. Pop in the oven, 10 minutes at 425 degrees, deliciousness done!!!

In addition to wanting to try asparagus another way I also to add another technique to my not-so-mad skills. So my main man Pepin (which is funnier when you say it aloud because "man" and "pah-pan"rhymes) had a simple fast way to put some asparagus together.

It calls for two dozen or so asparagus, 1/2 stick butter, and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. The butter should be cut up into itty bitty cubes.

Up until now I've always "snapped" asparagus to get rid of the less edible ends (opposite the spear). Just hold the spear and the other end and bend them towards each other until it snaps. Mother nature has a built in pull tab. Where it snaps is likely where the tougher portion that you would discard anyway. At least that's what my wife says.

But Pepin introduces me to peeling asparagus. Keeping the whole thing and just peel it. Now he says to use your fingernail to find where the asparagus gets tough. Well, let me say this, I scraped a line down about twenty or so asparaguses (sp?) asparagi (sp?) asparagus (?) and I walked away still having no clue what the hell he was talking about. I, for the life of me, couldn't figure out where this supposed magic line was. I think Jacques put it in his book just for sheets and giggles knowing all of his readers would scratch each asparagus.

But back to what I was saying. this was the first time I peeled the asparagus. Since I couldn't find Pepin's magical asparagus line I just peeled the asparagus with a regular old vegetable peeler.  I took each asparagus and rolled it as I peeled.

I think I probably pushed too hard because some of the asparagus got very thin in parts. I also think I peeled it much higher than I actually needed to. I probably could have gotten away with only peeling the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the asparagus.

The next step is cutting them diagonally into about 1 inch pieces. I'm not a very good diagonal cutter person but I tried my best. My wife said the trick is to cut an angle on one side then roll it halfway over and it cut it again at an angle.
Don't look at my old man knuckles.
I didn't do that though. It sounded too complicated, it was frustrating try to roll asparagus that I had (probably) overpeeled, and (as with many things my wife tells me) I didn't understand why she was telling me to do it. In retrospect (i.e. writing this blog) it would have given them a little rooftop which would have looked prettier. I will next time do that.....I think.

Once everything was cut up and prepped I put the asparagus into a skillet with 1/3 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring to a strong boil. Boil for about 1 1/2 minutes, uncover, and add the butter and parsley.

Return to a strong boil and shake the pan (you know, kind of like when you make a french omelette) for about 20-30 seconds. The reason for the shaking (and strong boil vs. gentle boil) is to get the water and the butter to mix (bind) into a sauce. When there is an equal amount of water and butter a strong boil should bind the butter together with the water. If there is too much water you'll have buttery water. If you have to much butter you'll have watery butter. If equal parts (plus shaking/strong boil/other slamming of molecules) you get a creamy butter sauce (Beurre Blanc).

When the water/butter mixture starts to rise (lots of bubbles, think boiling over milk) its done. Slide it right onto a serving dish and you're done.

Delicious, fast, easy, and pretty darn nutritious. I highly recommend it. Enjoy.


  1. man, that sounds delicious, Pepin! THat asparagus looks so pretty, and bright green too. I usually prepare asparagus the same way too- chop the bottom, oil s+p and throw it in the oven. I'll have to give this one a try. :)

  2. thanks for stopping by my blog!! And as far as query, both are same, just called differently in diff countries...Hope now you can give it a try :) And wow you have some techniques here..

  3. thanks for visiting my blog... the asparagus looks so delicious!

  4. Asparagus are such amazing fruit and I just love this veggie in every diff way :)

  5. Thank you for visiting me and for your nice words on my recipe. You have some useful techniques here, great job!

  6. Hopefully you'll get over your aversion to green foods soon! And since when has stew been for fancy people? Stew is classic poor man's food. Amiright? :)

  7. @Kimberly - Oh, I have. I've discovered asparagus, brussel sprouts and so much more. A world of culinary delights abound as long as I'm willing to try new things.