You could use this flavor combination with green beans as well. Either way, cut the vegetable into small, angled pieces. Hoisin sauce, rice wine, and toasted sesame oil are all now available at most grocery stores. If you have access to an Asian grocery, however, buy your hoisin sauce there: It will be richer, thicker, and more intensely flavored.
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1-1/2 tsp. rice wine
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic (from about 1 large clove)
1 bunch thin (or medium-thin) asparagus, bottom 2 inches trimmed (to yield about 8 oz.), stalks sliced at a very sharp angle into 2 inch pieces
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
Parboil for color and texture:
To parboil the asparagus, you’ll need just four basic kitchen tools: a medium-large pot (like a Dutch oven or soup pot, 4-quart capacity is fine), a large work bowl, a mesh strainer, and a clean dishtowel or two. Fill the pot with 2 quarts water and 1 Tbs. coarse salt and bring it to a boil. Fill the work bowl mostly with ice and cover with cold water. Dump your trimmed and sliced asparagus into the boiling water parboil 1 min. Begin timing as soon as you put the asparagus in the water; don’t wait for it to return to a boil. And don’t go anywhere—use your mesh strainer to transfer the asparagus to the ice bath just as soon as the time’s up. Let it sit for a minute or two in the ice water to stop the cooking and cool down. Lift the asparagus (use your hands or the strainer again) out of the ice bath and let them drain well in one layer on a dishtowel (or paper towels). Store them in a shallow container (lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture), covered with a slightly damp paper towel or dishtowel. They’ll keep in the refrigerator overnight. If you plan to use them right away, make sure they’re very dry.
Drop bias-cut pieces of asparagus in boiling water and start timing right away; cook just until crisp-tender, about a minute.
Stop the cooking fast. Immediately plunge the asparagus pieces into ice water so that they don’t keep cooking.
Sauté for flavor
In a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the peanut oil and sesame seeds over medium heat (put the seeds in the center of the pan, as some will pop to the sides as they cook). Let the oil and sesame seeds heat, without much stirring, until most of the seeds are browned, about 5 min. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 30 to 60 seconds. Add the hoisin mixture and stir to combine (I use a small heatproof spatula). Turn the heat to medium high, add the asparagus, sprinkle the salt over it, and mix to thoroughly coat the asparagus. Stir frequently and continue cooking until the asparagus is well coated and heated through, 1 min. The sauce should have a slightly glazy consistency. Serve immediately.
It takes only a minute or two to add flavor in the sauté pan. Ginger, garlic, hoisin, and sesame glaze the parboiled asparagus.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Steve Hunter