Dreaming of spring? Try these 3 fresh, green asparagus recipes this weekend

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen
Roasted asparagus with brie and croutons

Asparagus is coming into its own right now. 

The tender green shoots are best in the spring when it's easier to find young, thin spears with tight tips. The bigger the spear, the woodier it will be. But if you can only find overgrown asparagus, don't fret. As with any spear of asparagus, snap with your fingers down near the base to remove the toughest part and discard (or save for asparagus soup). If your asparagus is particularly large, peel the base of the stems with a potato peeler. Now you're ready to try these recipes:

Roasted Asparagus with Brie and Croutons

Perfect as an appetizer, side dish or a warm salad, this dish pairs creamy brie with asparagus.

When blanching any green vegetable, make sure the water is rapidly boiling before adding the salt and vegetables and work in batches to maintain the constant boil of the water.

You’ll also want to make sure that your blanching water is as salty as the ocean to season the asparagus and help preserve its vibrant green color. Properly blanched vegetables should have a good bite with no discernable crunch.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed

1/2 wheel brie, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until well-coated. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and switch oven to broil.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, prepare a large bowl of ice water.

Add half of the asparagus to the boiling water, making sure the water maintains its boil. Cook until asparagus is just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately plunge the asparagus in the ice water to stop the cooking process. Repeat with remaining asparagus. Once asparagus has cooled, remove from the ice water and pat dry.

Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the cheese on top of the asparagus and broil until the cheese has melted and the asparagus has started to blister, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide between serving plates, garnish with croutons and serve.

Fruit, salad and more:6 surprising things you can grill this spring, with recipes

Let your garden grow:Here's why you should plant a garden, even if you fail

Asparagus with Crispy Poached Eggs and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Asparagus With Crispy Poached Eggs And Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

If you love poached eggs but want more textural contrast, try breading and frying the eggs after poaching. The key is removing the eggs from the poaching liquid and transferring them to an ice bath once the whites have set just enough to handle, and the yolks are still very runny — remember, you’ll be cooking them a second time. 

Starting the bacon in a cold pan ensures it cooks evenly and renders as much of its fat as possible. You’ll be making the entire vinaigrette in one pan, so don’t worry if the final appearance is a little broken. The flavors will certainly come together.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

Bacon vinaigrette

3 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar

Kosher salt

4 large eggs

Vegetable oil, for frying

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions

To make the dressing: Place the bacon in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon, stirring constantly, until the bacon has rendered its fat and turned very crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the vinegar, mustard and honey and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

To make the asparagus: Fill a large saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Prepare two ice baths: one in a medium bowl and one in a large bowl.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until it just turns bright green, about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer it to the large ice bath. 

To make the eggs: Drain the water from the saucepan. Re-fill the saucepan with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, then add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt. While the water is simmering, prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl and crack two of the eggs into separate ramekins. 

Using a slotted spoon, stir the water clockwise to create a vortex. While the water is swirling, add one of the eggs to the center of the vortex. Poach until the whites have set but the yolk is still runny, 3 to 5 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the egg to the ice bath. Repeat with the second egg.

Meanwhile, in a second large or medium saucepan, begin heating 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat. (Alternatively, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer following the manufacturer’s directions.) Line a plate with paper towels.

While the oil is heating, whisk the remaining two eggs in a shallow bowl until smooth. Place the flour on a plate and season lightly with salt and black pepper. Place the breadcrumbs on a separate plate. 

Remove the poached eggs from the ice bath, pat dry, and very gently coat with the seasoned flour. One at a time, carefully transfer each poached egg from the flour to the egg wash and thoroughly coat with egg wash. Roll each poached egg in bread crumbs until completely covered. 

When the oil is hot, carefully add each egg to the oil and fry until the exterior is crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let drain on the paper towel-lined plate and lightly season with salt.

Arrange the asparagus on two serving plates. Liberally drizzle with the bacon vinaigrette, then place each egg in the center of the asparagus. Serve immediately.

Spring recipes:12 of our favorite fruit-filled, fluffy and caramel-topped Southern spring cake recipes

Side dish recipe:Asparagus and Rice Casserole

Cast Iron Seared Asparagus with Lemon-Tarragon Mayonnaise

Cast iron seared asparagus

We prefer standard or jumbo asparagus for this preparation, as they remain sturdy throughout the cooking process. If you’re using large asparagus, we recommend peeling it to remove some of the fibrous outer skin. If you’re using pencil asparagus, there is no need to peel them.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise (We prefer Duke’s mayonnaise in this and all other mayonnaise recipes.)

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Asparagus

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 bunch standard or jumbo asparagus, trimmed and peeled (see note)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving

Instructions

To make the mayonnaise: In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest and tarragon. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To make the asparagus: Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat and let heat until almost smoking.

Add the oil, followed by the asparagus in a single layer. Shake the pan to coat the asparagus in the oil, then let the asparagus cook undisturbed until it begins to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the asparagus and caramelize the second side, about 3 more minutes. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this step in several batches to give the asparagus ample space to move around.)

Transfer the asparagus to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the lemon tarragon mayonnaise, a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil.

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com