Reading through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I couldn't help but see her declaration of the superiority French method of cooking asparagus as a personal challenge. I question whether sauteed asparagus could be improved upon. It's crunchy, not at all limp, salty, comes with a delicious charred/grilled bite, yet maintains the green integrity of the vegetable. Julia Child suggests boiling asparagus. And peeling it. Why expend extra energy peeling something I was more than happy to eat anyway? Friends, I am here to report that Julia Child is wrong. The French method of peeling and boiling asparagus is not in fact superior in flavor or texture to pan sauteing it, nor is it easier.
Things go wrong right away with the peeling instructions. Julia recommends using a knife because an actual peeler isn't sharp enough. This seems a little dangerous to me--especially to me, someone who is more likely than most to gouge herself with a knife. She argues that you can eat more of the asparagus this way because you don't have to cut off the starchy ends. Well, in the my mangled peeling process, the ends became so thin that they broke off anyway. Not to mention, it takes approximately .02 seconds to chop 1 to 2 inches off the end of pile of stalks, whereas it takes no less than 10 minutes to properly peel a bunch of asparagus. I am not so destitute or hungry that I need to conserve the last bit of every piece of food. Yes, here's where you could argue for the character building and growth in love for the vegetable by spending more frustrating moments slicing it to perfection. Not worth it, particularly considering that boiling the vegetables left them more soggy than I prefer. Tasty, yes. Superior, no.
Not this time Julia Child, not this time.