Asparagus, sexy? Not Possible you say, try these!
My sexy asparagus stems are LOADED with layers of flavor, they might be the most popular item on your holiday table.
This asparagus side dish will help you feel less deprived, if you are sad because you won’t be having potatoes or stuffing or rolls for your holiday dinner, It has great warm colors that cue your brain to expect something delicious. A comforting aroma that sends your senses into a frenzy of expectation. A fresh crisp texture which will keep your mouth happy. And of course, a scrumptious flavor of rich almonds, hickory smoked bacon, and sweet asparagus…YUM. Am I painting the picture for you?
Remember, “Great food is art”and in order to create a masterpiece for your side dish, it takes some planning and effort. You could choose to just slap some butter on your vegetables and they would be good, maybe even worth a smile. But put the effort into this asparagus dish and you will have work of art which tastes as amazing as it looks.
In order to really make this dish really spectacular, you do need one important piece of equipment:
- A large stainless or cast iron skillet or saucepan, at least 12″ and a 2″ lip
You will need to find smoked hickory bacon, not maple or applewood smoked. They are too sweet for this recipe. Please get the best quality you can afford, it is a major player in the recipes flavor. The asparagus you purchase should be on the thin side, not the thick stems which are great for roasting. The tips of the asparagus should be unopened and firm to the touch. If the tips are mushy, look elsewhere. If they are very thick, you should blanch them until they are crisp, tender and finish them in the skillet. If you can’t find good quality asparagus, you might consider using green beans instead. You can prepare them using the same method as the asparagus. Again, look for the thinner beans if you are going that route. (Costco usually has thin green beans in their refrigerator room in the produce section.) The almonds can be either slivered or sliced. I prefer slivered without the skin, they look better when toasted in the skillet.
Now you are ready! Here is the recipe:
Sexy Asparagus with Bacon and Almonds
1/2 teaspoon grapeseed oil
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 pound asparagus, thin and firm (See comments above)
1/2 pound smoked hickory bacon, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste (Be careful, bacon will add a lot of salty flavor)
Trim the bottom 2″ off the asparagus, rinse and allow to dry completely. You don’t want water in the skillet, the asparagus will steam and not caramelize. This method will bring out the natural sugar flavor in the asparagus, similar to roasting.
Add the oil to the pan and wipe it with a paper towel to thinly coat the bottom. Toast almonds in the large skillet over medium-low heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Be sure to watch them, as they will burn quickly. Transfer almonds to a bowl and reserve. Wipe out skillet.
Add bacon to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until it is crisp tender. Have paper towels ready on a plate and when you remove the bacon, lay it directly on the paper towel. Roll it up and gently squeeze. You want to remove as much of the fat as you can. Unroll and let rest on clean paper towels, keep a watch though, these pieces tend to disappear when you aren’t looking. Reserve 2 tablespoons of clean bacon fat (try to keep all the bits of bacon out, they lower the smoke point)
Wipe out the pan with paper towels, carefully, don’t burn yourself. You don’t want to clean the pan of all the oil and bacon bits, but too much will overpower the asparagus. You want to be able to taste all three flavors in the finished dish. You can do all of the above, hours in advance. (Great tip for planning)
15 minutes before you are ready to plate the asparagus, get you skillet nice and hot over medium high heat. Add the bacon fat to the skillet and toss the asparagus to coat the pan and the stems. Saute, flipping the asparagus frequently until it turns bright green. Add the bacon and almonds. Continue to saute until asparagus is crisp -tender. Keep in mind that after you remove them from the pan, the asparagus will continue to soften a little. I can’t tell you how long this will take, it depends on how thick the stem is. It is best to check often and err on the crisp side.
Test for seasoning right before removing from the skillet. Have a warm platter ready to artfully display your Sexy Asparagus with Bacon and Almonds
Remember, Great food is art!