Sauté of Thick Asparagus and Oyster Mushrooms


1 pound asparagus-as thick as you can find
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine such as chardonnay (nothing too dry)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt to taste, preferably a large crystal type such as Maldon of Kosher
Olive or grapeseed oil as needed for cooking
A drizzle of Belle Farms Extra Virgin Olive oil

Bring a large pot (3-4 quarts) of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water.

Use your fingers to shred any mushrooms wider than an inch by simply gripping the cap with both hands and pulling apart. Tearing gives the mushrooms a more interesting texture when they are cooked.

Lay an asparagus spear flat on the cutting board. Grip the tip in the thumb and forefinger and point the base away from you. Using a sharp swivel peeler, start 2 to 3 inches from the tip and peel down the length towards the base. Do not use too much pressure or you will snap the stalk.  Rotate the stalk and peel all the way around. When they are all peeled, go back with a sharp knife and trim the ends off at a 45-degree angle. After you cut the end at 45 degrees, rotate the stalk 45 degrees then cut, then rotate the stalk 45 degrees again and cut an inch and a half up stalk, continuing until done. Do this to all the asparagus.

The water should be boiling by now. Place the mushrooms in a colander and lower the colander into the boiling water. Cook until the mushrooms are soft, but not starting to feel slippery or slimy, around 2-3 minutes.  Remove the colander to the sink and run cold water over the mushrooms until the mushrooms are cool and no longer cooking.

Get a bowl of ice water ready, large enough to accommodate the asparagus.

Plunge the asparagus into the boiling water. Cook just long enough to take away the raw quality of the vegetable and it turns bright green. Immediately drain the asparagus and submerge it in the ice water or in the cold water and run more water over it to stop the cooking. Drain well.

When drained, place in a bowl and drizzle with oil and season with salt and some of the herbs. Reserve.

Heat a heavy 10-inch sauté pan over medium high heat. Film with some oil, and toss in the mushrooms. Stir to coat with the oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the mushrooms. When the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown, add the wine and swirl to get some on all the mushrooms.

When the wine has evaporated from the pan, and the mushrooms have browned and have some crisp edges, push them to the outside rim of the pan and add the asparagus.

Cook to just brown parts of the asparagus and heat through, tossing to prevent burning. If needed, add a little more oil. Sprinkle with the rest of the thyme, a pinch more of salt, and drizzle with the Belle Farms oil.

VARIATIONS: This is a versatile dish. It takes well to either orange juice or Meyer lemon juice on the asparagus right after blanching, or a drizzle right at service.

I have cooked the mushrooms with mirin and soy sauce, then sprinkled dices candied ginger and in and drizzled orange juice, soy sauce and mirin just before service. You could finish the dish, then add a shot of water and add some Hoisin sauce to the water and stir to coat. Slivers of blanched carrot would go well with the dish and give a festive look.

Other mushrooms would work-shiitake would be strong and marry well with the Hoisin or soy/mirin/ginger treatment.
With cremini mushrooms, slice thinly and season with garlic and marjoram or rosemary. This dish pairs with a variety of main courses but would really complement seared scallops seasoned with lemon-scented olive oil.

SOURCE: Chef Andrew Cohen, Chef in Residence, MBCFM

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