I have long appreciated the "nose to tail" way of thinking about cooking animals. It is so honoring to the life of the animal to raise it sustainably, harvest it humanely, and then use every potion, wasting little or none.
Now chefs are talking about a similarly beautiful concept, "root to stalk", which utilizes all edible portions of the plant in cooking. I first heard about it while reading the absolutely epic cookbook Manresa; An Edible Reflection, written by chef David Kinch of the Los Gatos restaurant Manresa.
I approached this spring's first bouquet of asparagus with this approach. Typically, I remove the woody ends of asparagus spears with a vegetable peeler and am left with a heap of thin but tough ribbons of the vegetable. This week, I tossed this pile in two batches into hot oil and fried it for about 90 seconds until crisp, drained it on a paper towel, and salted it. It provided a delightful textural contrast to the creamy first-harvest asparagus spears. I'm so excited to explore other root-to-stalk cooking methods.
1 bunch asparagus
freshly ground pepper
red wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- If the ends are dry, remove a small segment from each asparagus spear. Peel the bottom two inches of each spear with a vegetable peeler.
- Place the asparagus on a large square of parchment paper. Drizzle with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold the parchment to form a small package, also referred to as en papillote. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat about 1/2-inch of coconut oil in a sauce pan. When it is very hot, fry the asparagus peels in two or three batches, being sure not to crowd the pan. Use tongs to remove each batch, setting it on a paper towel to drain. Season generously with salt. Repeat until all of the peels are cooked.
- When the asparagus has finished cooking set it on a serving platter and sprinkle with red wine vinegar. Top with the fried peel and serve immediately.