Skillet Asparagus

serves: 4 to 6 servings

In springtime, when farmers' markets sell really fresh, locally grown asparagus - or if you're lucky enough to pick spears in your own asparagus bed - cook them by the skillet method. You'll find it concentrates the natural sweetness and subtle asparagus flavors that are at their peak for only a day or two. Butter and cheese are natural complements to asparagus, and in the final moments of cooking here they both get a delicious toasting.

1½ pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled
1 stick butter, (1/4 pound)
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated


Melt the butter in the skillet in the skillet over medium heat. When it is just starting to bubble, lie in the spears in a single layer, sprinkle with salt, and shake to roll the asparagus and coat them.

Cover the pan and let the spears cook and steam for 4 to 5 minutes (or more, if they are very thick), shaking them around now and then,

Uncover and continue to cook another 4 minutes or so as the asparagus The butter left in the pan should be starting to color; if not, cook a bit more, and when browning starts, swirl the pan to spread the color.

Remove from the heat, and scatter the cheese around in the hot pan, swirling again to blend it into the browned butter. Pour the sauce over the asparagus and serve immediately.