In California, the first crops of asparagus are sometimes picked as early as February but the actual season only runs from April through June. Always remember to choose asparagus for their firm stalk, tight tips and vivid color. The thicker the stalk, the older the plant, so thinner asparagus will generally be younger and more tender.
In fact, try to find pencil-thin spears, as their tender skin allows them to cook more quickly. Also, the greater surface area of the thinner spears provides more area to caramelize.
Broiled Asparagus Tips
1 1/2 pounds thin asparagus, more or less.
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil,
Salt & White Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar*
1 large shallot, finely minced
Rinse the asparagus and break off the woody bottoms. Cut the asparagus in thirds to create four inch pieces. Mix the oil, lemon juice, and vingar and coat the asparagus pieces in a large mixing bowl. Arrange the dressed asparagus in a shallow baking dish and place under a broiler at least six inches away from the flame.
Broil attentively, removing the baking dish and toss the asparagus with tongs so that the pieces only change color slightly, darkening from green to golden brown at the edges but not blackening.
When you are satisfied with the color on oll sides, remove the apsaragus from the oven and quickly toss in the cheese with an extra splash of vinegar and oil and seasoning to again with salt and white pepper, rearrange the spears back into the baking dish, top with a final sprinkling of cheese, and broil again for just a minute more without letting the cheese burn.
* Fig vinegar or Vin Santo wine vinegar make a great option here!
* California’s Vella’s dry-aged Jack Cheese makes a nice local alternative to classic Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, or Pecorino.