Around these parts, it’s hard not to think seasonally when eating. Summer produces berries and corn, fall with apples and lettuces, winter has pears and squash; but in spring, before the fields have bloomed with what’s to come, fresh Washington asparagus reigns supreme.
Farmers across the state are looking to harvest the season’s first asparagus within the next few weeks and with 2015 yielding 21 million pounds (roughly a $35 million economic impact), the industry is hopeful for another successful showing for the perennial plant. Fun fact: The majority of Washington’s fresh asparagus remains in the United States, with much of it consumed in the Pacific Northwest. This means the vitamin-packed, fibrous vegetable spears are yours for the taking.
At Seattle’s famed Shiro’s, the lauded sushi restaurant in the Belltown neighborhood, Washington asparagus meets Japanese cuisine in this approachable spring recipe featuring sake “seasoning” from Chef Joe Sato.
“Asparagus isn’t native to Japan and not often used, so for this dish, the sake really adds the Japanese flavor,” Sato says. “The sake simply brings out the umami.”
Although Sato uses traditional Japanese sake, Northwesterners can go local with Seattle’s Cedar River Brewing Co. The full-bodied Junmai, which means “pure rice” in Japanese, consists simply of water, rice, yeast and koji, a mold used to aid in fermentation, showcasing what the PNW can do with the traditional sipper.
Like most high-end sakes — from the Northwest and Japan — Sato suggests drinking your sake cold and next to this flavorsome spring fare.
Sautéed Asparagus with Bacon and Potatoes
Serves 2 as a side
½ bunch fresh Washington asparagus, bottoms trimmed
2 strips bacon, cut in ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, cut into a quarters and sliced into bite-sized chunks
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Strain and place into ice-cold water until cooled. Dry and cut into inch-long spears.
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon for about 5 minutes to bring out the flavor. In another skillet over medium-high heat, add in the olive oil and warm, then add the potatoes and sauté until half-way done, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes to the bacon and cook for 2-3 more minutes until the potatoes are done.
Add in the asparagus and season with the soy sauce, sake, butter, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.