Fresh, locally-grown asparagus tastes better than sad supermarket stalks, but this flavor often comes at a price: sand, and lots of it. Chef Dan Barber, who knows a thing or two about just-picked produce, recommends blanching gritty asparagus to fully clean it. Here's why:As asparagus cooks, it can release grit, as Amanda Hesser of Food52 learned when a particularly sandy bunch of asparagus resisted three rounds of soaking and washing. After hitting the hot pan, the ostensibly clean stalks still leaked grit, ruining the dish she was preparing for a dinner party.
She later ran into Barber, who told her he always blanches local asparagus, so the grit is released into the cooking water and drained away. I often shy away from very sandy asparagus at the market because it is so hard to clean, but no more — next time I'm giving this method a try.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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