Dig out those silver asparagus holders you swiped from Alain Ducasse: The dainty spears have arrived at the Greenmarket. Susan Dare of Cherry Lane Farms trucks them in at 3 A.M., mere hours after she plucks them from her Jersey fields. Get to her Union Square stand early before they sell out, then follow this clever recipe from Tía Pol’s Alex Raij, and you’ll have captured the essence of spring in a bag.
Tía Pol’sAsparagus en Bolsa
1 untreated small or medium-size brown paper lunch bag
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
1 bunch medium or jumbo asparagus
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch of saffron
Juice of 1 lime
A knob of butter
8 medium shrimp, peeled and chilled (optional)
Preheat oven to 450.
(1) Using a pastry brush, paint the inside of the bag with olive oil. (This waterproofs the bag and keeps it from scorching.)
(2) Holding asparagus spears closer to the bottom third, bend the stalk until it snaps, discarding the woody ends. (If the asparagus are too large for the bag, cut each spear in half on the bias.) Rinse under cold water, shake dry, and place in the bag. Season with salt, crumble in the saffron, and add the lime juice and butter. Season the shrimp with salt and add to the bag.
(3) Roll down the top of the bag and staple it shut. Place bag on cookie sheet and bake until it’s puffed out and sizzling, approximately 9 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and slide bag onto a shallow platter. Holding bag from the top, give it a jerk or two until the bottom breaks and releases the shrimp and asparagus.