Sometimes it’s tough being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Case in point: On the train into work this morning I got to experience a young lad in a green JETS t-shirt and shamrock tattoo, moon my train when he wasn’t able to push himself onto the already crowded car on his way to the St. Patty’s parade. I thanked my Irish forefathers that we left his ass in Secaucus.
Once we arrived at Penn station I was welcomed by a scene easily recognizable from college: Packs of “youths” (as Liz Lemon calls them) revved up for a day of drunk and disorderly behavior, fueled by juvenile lust and freakishly warm early spring temperatures, packed into a building with questionable fire codes.
By lunchtime the streets of NYC were like a never ending outtake reel from The Jersey Shore. Girls in hot pants and shamrock knee socks crying on stairwells. Boys brawling on the sidewalk in Times Square. People stumbling around in furry green fedoras and drinking spiked bottles of Coca Cola. You may argue this is what St. Paddy’s is about, but I would argue there’s a difference between what I think of as an Irish good time (pubs, singing, loud storytelling, beer from a tap, sweaters instead of hot pants) and what was going down yesterday (an excuse for really bad behavior and questionable sartorial choices).
All this is to say that, as someone of Irish descent, who’s married to someone of Irish descent, I’m going to try and bring this holiday back from the sketchy brink. This weekend I’m planning a real Irish dinner for family and neighbors and I’m going to be using recipes from a great cookbook (written by my former boss at Saveur) The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews. On the menu will be: corned beef (of course) with a parsley bread sauce, shepherd’s pie made with ground lamb, parsnip and carrot mash, brown soda bread and smoked Irish salmon.
And in the meantime I’m making asparagus. It’s the beginning of asparagus season and I love that I’m already finding beautiful spears in the supermarket. I also love that Belle actually eats asparagus; next to string beans they’re the only green vegetable she’ll eat. It might help that I serve it to her with a side of green goddess dressing, which she likes to dip her spears into in a luxurious fashion. What I love about green goddess (my version at least) is that it can be made quickly, with a variety of ingredients depending on what herbs you have on hand, and it makes everything taste better and zingier. The other way I like to enjoy spring asparagus is to pan roast it, which I think improves the taste because the spears become almost close to caramelized, their woody texture breaking down to something tender but not mushy.
Here are both recipes for your enjoyment and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s keep it clean.
Asparagus Two Ways:
Asparagus With Green Goddess Dressing
-Clean and trim one bunch of asparagus (ideally you want stalks that are neither chopstick skinny nor cue stick thick, somewhere in the middle is best) by snapping the bottom off (it will break at its natural point when you bend the bottom of the stalk) peeling off the triangular stems with a paring knife and rinsing the spears in water. Fill a pot with about an inch of water and place the asparagus spears in a steaming basket or colander over the water (but not touching it) with a lid on top. Bring the water to a boil. It won’t take very long for the spears to steam until they’re tender. Check after 4 minutes by poking one spear with the tip of the paring knife, when it goes in easily they’re done.
-Plunge spears into a bowl of ice cold water to lower their temperature and keep them bright and green. Then drain and dry off.
-To make green goddess dressing combine the following in a blender or food processor: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, one bunch of parsley or watercress chopped, one scallion or a few chive sprigs chopped, 5 anchovy fillets (if you’re concerned about using anchovies I promise that your children will never even detect that they’re in the dressing, and they do add amazing flavor making them pretty necessary; just make sure to remove any tine little bones that might be sticking out of the fillet), a splash of champagne vinegar, juice of half a lemon. Blend to combine. Add salt and ground white pepper to taste. Serve spears with the dressing to dip.
Clean one bunch of asparagus per the directions above. In a large skillet with a lid, heat enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Place asparagus in the pan in a single layer, tossing them lightly with a wooden spoon so that they’re coated with oil, and then place the lid on top (be careful if the oil splatters a bit when it makes contact with the spears). Roast the asparagus in the pan for 4 minutes or so (you should hear them sizzling away, that’s goo) and then remove the lid and turn the asparagus so that the cooked side (which should be browning) is up. Place the lid back on top and cook for about 4 more minutes. The asparagus should look brown and almost crispy on the outside. Strange to look at but I promise delicious and tender on the inside. When the spears are browned all over and completely softened and tender, then remove to a plate and immediately sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice and parmesan (also bread crumbs if you have them). Or cut into smaller pieces and toss with cooked penne, a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan or crumbled goat cheese. You can reserve and use a bit of the starchy pasta cooking water to make it a bit saucy.