This Cool Potluck Dish Takes Just 10 Minutes

By Paul Thomas Zenki

It’s tasty, healthy, good looking, and almost sinfully easy …

There’s times you really want to pull out the stops for a potluck and fix that specialty dish everyone asks for — rum cake at Christmas, three-tier dip for the Super Bowl bash, hot and spicy deviled eggs for the family reunion, that sort of thing.

Then there’s other times…. Like when you forgot to put the neighborhood block party on your calendar and you’re so covered up you’ve barely got time to think.

OK, I hear you — just bite the bullet, you say. Go and pay an arm and a leg for the sandwich tray in the deli case, and take the high eyebrow from everybody who actually cooked something. And it may well come to that, but first, I’m going to stop by the grocery and take a peek at the asparagus.

Now I may be out of luck and all they’ve got is the thick stumpy stuff, in which case, off to the deli case I go because I’m not going to be roasting or grilling these. But if the stars are aligned, I might find the holy grail of potluck slackerism — slender, bright green spears about the diameter of a pencil. If so, I’ll snap them right up!

Asparagus on a plate with shaved Parmesan cheese
Image by Ludwig Willimannn (edited)

Chilled asparagus with honey mustard glaze

The magic of asparagus is that it’s at its best when lightly blanched. Blanching keeps it crisp and doesn’t release the bitter flavors so many folks dislike about it.

So when I get home I’ll start up the electric kettle, put a colander in the sink, set a large pot on the stove, break out a bowl for my asparagus, and fill a second bowl half full of ice water.

Now let me pause here and say, if you don’t have an electric kettle, give some thought to purchasing one. It’ll boil water faster than the stove or microwave and keep it warm, and it takes up precious little counter space. I use mine pretty much every day.

So while the kettle is coming to a boil, I’ll rinse and snap my asparagus. That’s right, you don’t even need a knife or cutting board. Just grab each spear by the stem end and about the middle of the stalk and bend. It’ll snap right where it becomes untender. Compost the stem ends (along with any spears too limp to snap) and drop the sprig ends in your bowl.

When the water boils, pour it into your saucepan, which needs to be wide enough for the asparagus spears to lie down flat. Put it on high heat, get it to a rolling boil, and toss in a generous dose of salt.

Add the snapped asparagus all at once and let it boil for about a minute and a half. These thin spears cook quickly, and we’re going to chill them so we don’t want fork-tender. We’re looking retain some of the natural crispiness.

Now quickly empty the pot into the colander, then immediately plunge the asparagus into the ice water. While it’s chilling, mix equal parts honey and Dijon mustard to make the glaze. When the asparagus is cold to the touch, which won’t take long, dry it and place it in a sealed container in the fridge. It’ll keep overnight if needed.

Now all you need is a platter and a pair of tongs. Keep the ’sparagus chilled until serving time, then lay it out on the platter and drizzle with the honey mustard glaze. And you, my friend, are done!

Now go fix your plate, and feel free to give the high eyebrow to that plastic deli tray.

Header image by congerdesign (edited)

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Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.