Of all the methods for roasted vegetables with browned edges and perfectly tender, not-at-all overcooked insides — leaving the cut vegetables in the fridge to dry out overnight, as you would a chicken; forgoing the foil and the parchment; sticking with a high temperature; positioning your baking sheet in the hottest part of your oven — the one I find myself employing most often is an accident of circumstance.
Our kitchen is so small, you see, that we store the baking sheets inside the oven. That means that when we forget, as we often do, to take them out of the oven before we turn it on, we find ourselves with scalding-hot pans — dangerous if you forget to use oven mitts to remove them, but brilliant if you’re looking to get a nice browned edge on your vegetables without the insides turning to mush.
Preheated sheet pans are particularly useful when dealing with asparagus, which has a tendency to go soft and — I’ll say it — a little mushy. But when the stalks hit a hot baking sheet, they immediately start sizzling and browning, taking on a beautiful color without getting too soft.
When the asparagus is nearly finished, I shower it with grated Gruyère (Parmesan or Manchego would also be good) and switch the oven to broil to melt the cheese into a lacey web and drill down on the crisp asparagus tips. And since I firmly believe that asparagus — naturally grassy and sweet — needs acid, salt, and crunch to be its best self, I make a garlicky topping of panko and walnuts as the asparagus cooks, and finish with lots of lemon zest and juice.
It’s fun to eat it off the baking sheet, plucking it stalk by stalk, but if you’re at that point in asparagus season when the vegetable is no longer exciting enough to hold its own, try serving it over a bowl of barley mixed with olive oil and lemon juice, buttered orzo, yogurt blended with basil, or a thick slice of garlic-rubbed toast.
Cheesy Roasted Asparagus With Crispy Crunchies
Serves: 2-4 as a side
1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped or trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup Gruyère, coarsely grated (40 grams)
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
- Heat oven to 425°F with a baking sheet in the hottest section of the oven. In a large bowl, toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon oil, 1½ teaspoons salt, black pepper, and chile flakes.
- When the oven (and pan) are hot, add the asparagus in a single layer (it should sizzle) and roast for 7 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your asparagus, until browning and crisp-tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the panko, nuts, grated garlic, remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Spread onto a small baking sheet and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring twice, until panko is golden brown. Set aside while you finish the asparagus.
- When the asparagus is finished turn on the broiler. Sprinkle the cheese all over the asparagus and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbling. Top asparagus with panko mixture, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Eat promptly!