Friday Fuck-Ups: Asparagus Disaster


I just recently found out about Fine Cooking Magazine. Does anyone else read this? It’s actually great — a glossy magazine devoted entirely to recipes and useful cooking tips. None of the boring wine recommendations or 10,000-word essays on strolling through Paris that clog up Gourmet and BonApp. It’s actually more like Cook’s Illustrated, except with color photos.

In the front of the magazine, they have a feature called “What We’re Cooking Now.” They select three seasonal ingredients, and each of three editors details a quick, easy way to use them up. In a recent spring issue, they covered asparagus, arugula, and rhubarb. As you know, we’ve been fiending for ways to use up all this beautiful spring asparagus and arugula, so I was into this idea, and particularly loved one ed’s suggestion for asparagus:

I like to steam asparagus, then shave the salks in fettuccine-like strips with a vegetable peeler, reserving the tips. I toss the asparagus “fettucine” and tips with real fettuccine and a creamy sauce flavored with lemon zest and tarragon.

Brilliant, right? I rushed out to buy some asparagus, envisioning a gorgeously green spring pasta dish, where you couldn’t even tell whether the strands thrown in were veggies or just green pasta.

I boiled my pasta, steamed my asparagus, and then set about “shaving the stalks in fettuccine-like strips with a vegetable peeler.”

Um, no. I did not get fettuccine-like strips. Not at all. I got the mess you see above. Some tiny, ugly little strands that peeled off, and asparagus stalks that just fell apart when I tried to peel them? WTF?

So I ate fettuccine tossed with asparagus tips – and no fancy strands.


The nasty, disintegrating asparagus stalks were too painful to look at and had to be disposed of. Good thing I saved those tips, but this was in no way the classy, impressive spring meal I had in mind.

Where did I go wrong? Did I steam them for too long? Does my vegetable peeler suck? What’s my effing problem?

PS – Fuck-up a dish of your own? (On Friday or any other day?) Do Tell!

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  • Maids May 22, 2009  

    those shaved stalks are as ugly as the PETA ad in the sidebar that features PA’s massive mammary.

  • Bliz May 22, 2009  

    The thing I don’t get here is why the recipe calls for steaming then peeling. Doesn’t it make more sense to peel first? This is why we need a blog community, fucking recipe mags as so inconsistent!

    I’ve done a variation of a dish like this before and it came out great, but I don’t even remember cooking the ‘gus. I think I just tossed the peeled with the pasta and sauce and let the residual heat do the work. At most, a 5-10 second blanch to brighten the colors and season is the only work I’d do before adding to the pasta.

    Sucks a sexy dish like that didn’t come out right, def worth a 2nd attempt.

  • Linnea Covington May 22, 2009  

    I think you did steam them too long. I would just trying peeling them first, while they have some girth, otherwise it seems they would just turn to mush.

  • C. Christy Concrete May 22, 2009  

    I second Linnea’s suggestion to peel them raw. Then again, it also might depend on how thick and woody your asparagus is. If they’re early-season little buggers and too flimsy and tender, it might not work; but big honkin’ mid-season mothers might be easier to handle.

    We should have a recurring feature for food mag reviews, if we don’t already.

  • MonkeyBoy May 22, 2009  

    1) @Christy – i agree… but if you’re gonna ask BS how “thick and woody his stalk is” you need to run that by Alex first

    2) I planted asparagus this year so I’ll try this once I harvest any. Of course, since it takes a year or two to get anything don’t hold your breath. Says less about my patience than it does about uninformed enthusiasm and online nurseries selling asparagus crowns.

    3) @Maids – Completely agree about the PA ad. On a naughty food blog like ES I would at least expect a combination of her first “home video” and whatever PETA brainwashing she’s doing now.

  • Gourmet Diet May 23, 2009  

    Add the asparagus, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until just tender, 7 or 8 minutes. Gourmet Diet

  • OMGYeahYouKnowMe May 24, 2009  

    Well, you inspired me to try this dish yesterday, peeling the bases of raw asparugus and throwing them in with saw noodles for 2 minutes of cooking, then mixing in sauteed asparagus tips. it was beautiful and tasty, came out just perfect. I think I fixed your fuck up!

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