Friday, January 13, 2012

4 Things to Cook in Asparagus Pots

Asparagus pans, usually called asparagus pots, are a good example of cookware that can do double-duty in the kitchen. The 9- to 10-inch tall pots with a wire insert are designed specifically for steaming asparagus but can easily be used for other foods. The pots are narrower than regular cooking pots -- about 5 inches in diameter -- so they aren't suitable for cooking large amounts of food.


Long vegetables that are wider or tougher on one end are particularly suited for cooking in an asparagus pot, because the bottom of the vegetable will be immersed in water while the top is steamed. Corn on the cob is ideal, but depending on the size of the ears, you may only be able to cook a few ears at a time. Broccoli stalks also work well for tenderizing tough stalks in the boiling water as the florets are gently steamed. Try several whole carrots or one artichoke in the pot.


You can use asparagus pots as you would a pasta pot with a strainer for some types of pasta. However, the wire basket in the pot is often made with wide rings and a few vertical wires to hold it together, so small pasta will fall through the wires. The pot is perfectly shaped for boiling lasagna noodles and works well for small amounts of large pasta shells and cannelloni.


The wire basket in an asparagus pot can make a dramatic presentation for shellfish when they're dumped out on a paper-covered table for immediate enjoyment. Either steam or boil clams and mussels in water, wine or broth. The tall, narrow pot is ideally shaped for steaming geoducks -- very large clams from the Pacific Northwest. Don't overlook crustaceans for your pot; jumbo prawns and lobster tails also cook well.


Asparagus pots make blanching vegetables a breeze. If you're planning on freezing vegetables, such as carrots or broccoli, you need to blanch them first. Blanching whole tomatoes allows the skins to easily be removed. Blanching vegetables before stir-frying shortens the time they spend cooking in oil and preserves their color. Blanching involves briefly boiling vegetables and then immediately plunging them into cold water to end the cooking process. The wire insert in an asparagus pot makes this simple. Try whole zucchini, bok choy and parsnips for stir-fries.

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