asparagus with chorizo and croutons

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Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons
Adapted from Jacques Pépin

First of all, some confessions: This may be a six-minute meal for you, but some of us still had to be pains in the tuchus’ about it. I ordered a par-baked country loaf from Fresh Direct that first needed to be baked and cooled, before it could be rendered into croutons. (Could I be more ridiculous?) Then I fell all gaga over some cranberry beans at the Greenmarket yesterday, so I had to shell and pre-boil them before adding them to the dish. (Though canned and drained beans, or skipping the beans entirely, would also do.) And yes, I know asparagus season has really passed but that off-season stuff isn’t a quarter bad.

And now, some cooking notes: The asparagus will be very al dente, cooked in this method. We love it that way, but if you like yours with more give, you can start it a couple minutes earlier in pan or steam it for a minute or two before you add it. Marcona almods are fantastic if you can find them, but because I couldn’t, I used slivered almonds which burned easily — not recommended; use the whole ones. The beans are optional and not part of the original recipe, but we liked them in there a lot.

Serves 4

1 pound large, thick, firm asparagus, lower third of the stalks peeled with a vegetable peeler or snapped off
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 ounces Spanish chorizo (but Portuguese chouriço will work as well), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups 3/4-inch bread cubes (croutons), preferably from a baguette or country bread loaf
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans (optional; I used 3/4 pound fresh cranberry beans, shelled then boiled for 20 minutes in lightly salted water)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make this right as you are ready to eat. Cut each asparagus stalk into 3 or 4 pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add all the ingredients except the beans, if using, and salt and pepper. Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides. Add the beans, if using, and salt and pepper, toss again, and serve.

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