Thursday, May 24, 2007




"The New Joy of...Cooking"





There's no better way to challenge the loyalty of one's readership than to post a recipe.

I could, therefore, entitle this post something Sally Fieldlian like, "You DO like me, right? You WILL come back, even though I'm posting a recipe? I promise it will be just this once, and I won't weep hysterically and wipe my snot on your shoulder, if only you promise to return one day, when the recipes have gone away."

But the asparagus furor that arose out of my last post made me want to provide some specifics about one of the backbones of my springtime diet: nearly-broiled asparagus. If you, too, love that green stuff so fervently that even the funky urine odor an hour after eating it doesn't dissuade you, then this recipe is for you.

First, you're going to need a baking sheet, the kind of big ole rectangular pan you could hit Simon Cowell in the chest with terrifically hard and then take away imprints of his chest hair tufts for posterity. Now, this pan doesn't have to be huge-huge (damage can be done to Cowell even with a moderate-sized pan), but you want it big enough that it could double as a clown shoe in a pinch.

Then you're going to need at least a pound of asparagus--because, really, who eats less than that? And to tell you true, if you live in the Land of the Wild Jocelyn, you'd do well to start out with at least two pounds. Some fine folks, home after a long day's work at The Company, standing in the kitchen with good posture, wearing a tailored suit, might look at the stack of stalks and think, "Oh, good, we've enough for the whole family. Lovely." Here in our household of unemployment, slouching and t-shirts, though, we are realists and know there ain't no way the yowling kids are going to eat, willingly, this particular green food (since it doesn't say "Shrek" on it), so the prep-chant goes: "Screw their nutrition. More for us!"

Your next step will be therapeutic, as there is snapping involved--from tempers to stalks. Pick up each stalk and, as you did as a child with your Barbies (when witnessing adults would mutter, "Hem, er, Dahmer. Jeffrey Dahmer?"), hold each stalk by its "legs" and then, at the natural breaking point, snap off its "head." Remember when you decapitated your Skipper doll and never again found her noggin? That's what I'm talkin' about. Indeed, each stalk can be gently and steadily bent--violent movements are not actually necessary--until it hits the point of breakage. A man named Peter did just such work on my heart when I was in my early 30's. The stalk, or the Jocelyn, hardly needs to realized what's happening to it, until the moment of irrevocable and devastating impact.

Okay, now it's Artistic Expression time. Discard the tough ends that you've just broken off (if you have an enemy, perhaps named Peter, put them in his pillowcase while he's away on a trip to Vegas for two weeks) and then artfully arrange the lovely asparagus heads/bodies on the baking sheet. I sometimes do a hatchmark dealie, wherein I line up four spears and then lay a fifth across it diagonally; this also helps Groom and me keep a running tally of how many spears there are, so fisticuffs don't ensue at mealtime. But you go crazy; get creative; make a portrait of your grandmother riding a unicycle out of the stuff.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fun, you can turn on the oven to, honest to Emeril, 500 bangin' degrees. If you have a smoke detector in the house, this would be a good time to go take the batteries out. I'll wait.

No, seriously. Go do it. The smoke is going to be hack-worthy.

Okay. So you've got them babies on the pan. Now you need to take out some of your really expensive ultra-extra-non-Paris-Hilton-but-rather-still-a-virgin olive oil and, placing a finger over the opening (there are more, really crude, Paris Hilton jokes here, but I'll spare you. Just think "finger" and "opening." Yes, my work here is done), drizzle it over all the spears. Or you can just use your cheap, years-old streetwalker olive oil. Whatever you've got.

Now comes the philosophical section of the recipe: what is life without spice? Life, and food, are significantly diminished without it, all the less for their bleak, uninterrupted sameness. Translation: add some salt and pepper. If you have any character at all, make it freshly-ground pepper, not just pre-ground flakes from a can. Splurge, honey, and buy some peppercorns. You are so worth it.

Hang on. We're ready to rock. Open the oven, slam in the pan of goodies, close the oven, lean back against the kitchen counter, and pick up your beer again. If you use a timer, set it for five minutes. If you don't use a timer, then sing the "ABC" song about 7 times. Or once through the extended dance remix of "Tainted Love" would work.

After five minutes, put on a big ole silicon oven mitt and a gas mask (or, at the least, safety goggles) and open up the oven. Reach in like the hero you are and shake that baking sheet--hokey pokey all those stalks so that their left feet and right arms are in a big tangle. I watched my kids play Twister the other day, and it was pretty much the same--limbs everywhere; all I know is that this step involves some sort of analogy to a kids' game. So go ahead and liken this process to, em, Clue Junior, and then close the door and back away slowly, reaching around blindly for your beer as you wipe the smoke out of your eyes.

Set the timer for another five minutes, or sing "Stairway to Heaven" while musing about how poorly all those formerly-hot classic rock stars have aged. Ah, Robert Plant, we hardly know ye.

After the final chorus, or when the beeper goes off, put on all your gear again, and head in to the inferno one final time for The Extraction.

Toss the pan onto the countertop or the burners of your stove. Head to the fridge and take out some feta cheese. There are no substitutions here, so don't even try to sprinkle some cheddar on the Holy Stalks. Jesus Marimba, could you not plan ahead for once in your life and have actually bought the feta? Presuming you want to stay on my good side, you'll just have the damn feta and won't dither about in front of the cheese drawer, trying to find something to fool me with. And this is no time to get distracted by those old tupperware containers on the back of the shelf. Yes, that is mold you see; yes, those are the refried beans you opened when Clinton was still in the White--and the dog--house. But there's piping asparagus awaiting you, so hop to!

Plate your half of the spears, angling for one or two extra when your friend/spouse/partner isn't looking ("Hey, check out that, er, UPS truck backing up to the neighbors' garage! Why are they filling it with all their electronic equipment? Could it be a heist? Maybe you need to do something..."). Crumble the feta, liberally (always the best approach, in cooking, morals, and politics), all over your spears.

Set the timer again, this time for two minutes. Or hum "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time." See if you can beat my record and eat your entire plateful in that time.

By the way, asparagus fangs hanging out at the buzzer DO still qualify as "eaten."

I've also heard of people eating their food in a leisurely fashion. Suit yourself, ya delicate little poncey poodle. The rest of us will just sink our heads into the feedbag and make some indelicate chomping noises for awhile here.

31 comments:

furiousBall said...

I'm actually going to do a fund raiser involving Simon Cowell. First he's going to spend all day with several wads of Silly Putty flattened on his chest. Next, we're going to extract them with salad tongs and auction off the hairy putty balls.

Sweet, I finally got to use the phrase "hairy putty balls".

frannie said...

I love asparagus!!! sounds yummy. I roast mine with red peppers and drizzled with italian dressing and parm. cheese. yummy!

oreneta said...

OK, I'm really really hungry.

Only problem, lots of gorgeous asparagus here....but feta????

*wail*

I haven't seen any yet!

I do keep seeing old ladies wandering contentedly, and avariciously out of the mountains with -get this- stalks of wild asparagus they've hunted down...I'll have to ask how they cook it, without feta...

I've never found any...

*sob*

Tracey said...

Interesting. I've cooked turkey the same way. With smoke, that is, and detectors sadly with batteries.

Jeannie said...

I happy to own at least 3 copies of the Joy of Cooking and that recipe is not in any of them. However, I am very likely to actually try your recipe without any of the forbidden substitutions because I will probably sing Hotel California instead of Stairway to Heaven. I love asperagus. So do some of my children but I'm not sure which and one of the ones that does is far far away so no sharing - and my husband hates them. So I will only have to spar with probably one person to eat these suckers. Oh and maybe not even that if the one that likes asperagus is also the one who is allergic to feta - yay me!
By the way, you would do well to publish a cookbook. It could be 479 pages long and contain only 3 recipes. And people would rush to buy the next one in the series.
Thanks.

Jill said...

Mmmm, sounds tasty. I love asparagus just about anyway it can be prepared, but, for the love of god, never never never eat asparagus out of a can. A can somehow transforms lovely asparagus into green mush. Ick.

Bon said...

you are forgiven the recipe, because it sounds really good.

but i wish you gave out samples. :)

velvet girl said...

Wow, this almost makes me wish that we could have dairy products in the house.

I've never been a fan of asparagus, but perhaps it's because I never had a recipe like this one. Time to peruse Fine Cooking for a suitable alternate asparagus recipe to try.

Theresa said...

I'm still laughing so hard I can hardly type. "Ultra-extra-non-Paris-Hilton-but-rather-still-a-virgin olive oil", that is too funny. We've got "extra virgin", will that do? Although, I've no idea how something can be extra virgin, it must be some kind of supervirgin. I can just see a superheroine with SV on her chest, going out to save all those tempted by living a life of sin.

Em said...

I do love asparagus...but maybe not enough to follow an entire recipe. But no matter how many recipes you post, I'll be back cause you make even an asparagus recipe interesting and fun!

Karen said...

Asparagus is icky but I do love the way you tell a story :)

Fresh Hell said...

Asparagus spears and artichokes are one of the ways I won over my 5 year old niece. She is a creature unlike any other. You have to watch her like a hawk when you start getting to the heart of the artichoke though. In one fleeting blink of an eye, the little f'er will have it down her gullet whilst pointing and laughing at your misfortune for not being as quick as she is. Real cutie!

WanderingGirl said...

O.M.G. I'm running to the store tomorrow to buy as much asaparagus as they have (the good stuff, not the stuff the size of saplings) and eating as many pounds of asparagus as my stomach can hold. I love broiled asparagus but had never thought about the feta... and I LURVE feta! Thanks!!!

Shari said...

Love asparagus!!

You are forgiven for writing a recipe story.

I'll be back.

mist1 said...

I adore asparagus. Unless it's woody. I love woodies.

choochoo said...

you made my stomach rumble. I like cooking, but I don't like cleaning up. Cleaning up makes me wanna kill someone. And cook them. Well, no, not really.

Glamourpuss said...

I am so glad we got rid of that Cowell fellow - he's a wrong 'un.

I love asparagus but asparagus pee makes me gag.

Delicious recipe. Delicious writing Jocelyn.

Puss

Jazz said...

Here's a great asparagus recipe (this way I can post a recipe without doing on my blog. Ha)

1) Follow Jocelyn's instructions for preparation.

2) Roast the asparagus on the barbeque (and PLEASE, remember to lay them out crosswise from the grate).

3) since you can't shake the Bar-B around like J does, use your tongs to make sure they're roasted all around.

4) While Mr. Jazz (or Mr. Whoever)is cooking up the asparagus, make a vinaigrette with olive oil, balsamic vinager and shallots.

5) Grate parmesan cheese.

6) When the plate of asparagus enters the house, kiss the cook(it'll make him feel good about himself and... well... moving along...), toss the asparagus with the vinaigrette, sprinkle with cheese (lots of it in my case, but you can act civilized about it if you want)

7) Scarf it down.

Top cat said...

This sounds delicous but I have a better recipe.
Open 1 or 2 cans of DelMonte Asparagus
place in microwave safe container
Heat on High for 2 minutes
drain liquid, top with favorite topping and spice
eat
Prep time: 3 minutes

yum yum
tc

Diana said...

I will make this this weekend and hum your name in blissful gratitude. I've a bottle of the extra virg (with some essence of lemon, no less) at the ready and will grab some fresh feta. My only concern is if the asparagus of this week is a sad as that which was for sale last week, I will have to postpone and go in search. No. Must keep good, positive thoughts. I'm sure the store keeps the good stuff in the back store rooms. I just have to steal a smock and a name tag and I'm in.

(ps: You'd better be posting more of these little gems of recipes.)

Lee said...

You kill me.

Tracey said...

And...um...tag. (Don't hate me, you just ran slower than the other bloggers! Probably because your tummy was full of asparamahoosits.)

Diesel said...

I live just south of the home of the Asparagus Festival, and I still can't feign interest in this recipe. Also, I'm pretty sure that if you eat asparagus without bacon wrapped around it, you'll be poisoned.

Logophile said...

mmmm,
Im waiting for you to come bring me mine
:D

lime said...

gees i am glad you clarified that we shoudl sing the ABC song 7 times and not innagadadavida....i mean the full version is 17 minutes and all those precious asparaguses...asparagii...whatever the hell the plural form is...would be burt to a crisp and if youhadn't taken out the smoke detector batteries, sweet jesus, i don't wnat to imagine the flapping that would occur as youbatted at the thing with your silicone mitt. ok well, that and i don't even kow all the words to the iron butterfly classic, ABC song is easier for my poor motherheimers afflicted brain...

and hey, if my old post about how to properly fold a fitted bedsheet didn't drive em away, a recipe certainly won't!

Claire said...

Mmmm...delicious post J.
Recipe posts are A-ok w/ me!

BeachMama said...

What a delicious sounding recipe. And your writing is just fabulous.

Mother of Invention said...

Recipes with a kick of attitude, spice and humour! You should write a book of them! It does sound like a long time to broil them at 500 and I'm sure my fire alarm would go off, just as it did the last time I cooked...and burned steaks...and everyone in the front of our house, relaxing for their massage and chiropractic appointment sat bolt upright as I entered the office yelling, "What's the code for the Alarm system?!! Quick!" Had to phone it in as a false alarm and they were just about to send the trucks out! So you see, I REALLY don't want to be burning anything!

Love feta so I'll try this, albeit it a tad reluctantly! Feta also great with cut up cucumber, tomatoes and avocado with drizzled red wine vinegar and garlic topped with sunfower seeds..and no broiling!

Princess Pointful said...

That was the most entertaining recipe ever.
Can I still do it without Simon?

That Chick Over There said...

Never had asparagus in my life, but might now. :)

Also? I found a way to incorporate the phrase: Jocelyn's third leg into my blog. I'm so pleased.

urban-urchin said...

Gonna try this tomorrow- thank you for posting it. You wrote one of the most entertaining recipes I've read in a while. Have you read Anthony Boudrain's Les Halles? His recipes are funny.