When stalking the wild asparagus it is always wise to seek out the firmest spears with the tightest tips. The thicker the stalk, the older the plant. Thinner asparagus, therefore, are younger and thus more tender. Moreover, the fragile skin and greater ratio of surface area of the thinner stalks means they will cook more quickly, and completely.
1 1/2 pounds of thin asparagus stalks.
3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, (or other dry-aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese)
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 cut off the woody tips of the bottoms. Cut the asparagus spears into thirds in order to create four-inch pieces. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, vinegar and seasonings. Coat the asparagus pieces in the dressing and arrange them in a large baking dish.Slide the baking dish under a broiler at least six inches away from the flame. Reserve the remainder of the dressing in the bowl.
Holding the tongs, broil the asparagus for a few minutes while staring at them intently to the point that they may actually become uncomfortable. Every couple of minutes remove the baking dish from the oven and quickly rearrange the pieces with the tongs and then return them to the oven. This ensures the stalks will face the flame from all sides as they broil turning a lovely scorched and umbrous shade of green with just a few hints of char at the extremities.
Remove the apsaragus from the oven and quickly toss the stalks in a big bowl, first with the remaining dressing, and then coating them in the cheese. Arrange the spears one final time onto the baking dish and slide it back under the broiler for a final minute or two, so that the cheese melts but does not burn. Serve immediatly.
* Fig vinegar can also be delightful.
* California’s Vella’s Dry-Aged Jack Cheese is a great local alternative to Parmigiano Reggiano. The California asparagus season runs from late April through the end of June.