Start Brining Asparagus And You'll Never Look Back

Asparagus on skillet with toppings
Asparagus on skillet with toppings - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

Whether you pair it with a juicy filet mignon or toss it with a mixed green salad, asparagus is a nutritious and easy-to-prepare vegetable that complements a wide variety of main courses. Although spices, seasonings, herbs, and the citrusy kiss of some lemon juice can zhuzh up a batch of asparagus, you can unlock new flavors from the inside out by brining this stringy, soil-grown green.

Although brines are often reserved for tenderizing and enhancing the flavor of meat, your favorite vegetables can benefit from a brine soak all the same. Delicious as they are, we'd be remiss not to mention that asparagus often boasts a tough and chewy texture. By marinating them in a brine, you can soften and tenderize asparagus stalks for a more succulent, melt-in-your-mouth texture that's easier to chew and cut through. Instead of enjoying asparagus with surface-level flavor, the herbs and spices of your brine will infuse the very heart of this lanky veggie with bold flavors. Are you sold yet?

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Brine Ingredients

Person adding salt to pot
Person adding salt to pot - SALMONNEGRO-STOCK/Shutterstock

In its most basic form, brines are made with a ratio of one cup of salt to one gallon of water. This no-frills, no-fuss brine is ideal if you want to simply tenderize your asparagus and infuse it with whispers of flavor-enhancing salt. But if you're an adventurous foodie, you can jazz up your brine with added ingredients for a more flavorful batch of asparagus.

For starters, adding a small amount of sugar to a saltwater brine can balance the salty flavor profile while bringing out the slept-on sweetness of asparagus, and facilitating a golden-brown char during the cooking process. Acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus juice from a zesty lemon or lime can brighten the flavor of the asparagus, mellowing out its occasional bite of bitterness. Beyond the basics, whole garlic cloves can infuse the asparagus with a satiating allium flair, while whole peppercorns can give it a subtle hint of warming spice. Similarly, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, or dill can infuse the asparagus brine with a garden-fresh aroma that you can smell and taste in equal parts.

Bear in mind that brining asparagus isn't an on-the-fly kitchen tip and it can take up to four hours at room temperature to fully tenderize and season the veggie. If you're planning on enjoying this flavor-packed asparagus hack for dinner, it's best to start the process at lunch so you don't wind up trying to rush perfection in the evening.

Best Entree Pairings

Salmon and asparagus on plate
Salmon and asparagus on plate - Kajakiki/Getty Images

Brined asparagus makes for a delicious and nutrient-dense snack all on its own. However, pairing with complementary main courses and entrees makes for a satisfying meal you won't soon forget.

Move over PB&J, a perfectly grilled salmon filet and brined asparagus are a match made in culinary heaven. The smoky, charred notes from the grill complement the earthy sweetness of the asparagus, as the natural richness of the fish is balanced by the subtle tanginess of the brine. If salmon is a bit too fishy for your taste, opt for a mellow-mannered fish like halibut or flounder.

Lemon herb chicken and brined asparagus come together like long-lost soulmates. The zesty citrus notes from the chicken enhance the bright acidity of the brined asparagus, while the herbs in both dishes tie the flavors together seamlessly. Plus, succulent chicken contrasts effortlessly with the crispy, caramelized exterior of the asparagus for a pleasant textural contrast. For a vegetarian option, pasta primavera is the dish for you! A combination of creamy pasta threaded with various vegetables such as zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and peas, brined asparagus will be the star of the show with its depth of flavor and al-dente texture that nestles neatly into the silky plate of pasta.

We're not here to hate on tried-and-true traditional asparagus cooking methods. But we want to help you revolutionize your vegetable game, and with a well-thought-out brine and a little bit of your time, you'll never look at asparagus the same again.

Read the original article on Daily Meal