There are many ways to cook asparagus, and this time of year, when the perennial’s shoots are in abundance, many opportunities to experiment with new techniques. But try as we may, we haven’t been able to improve upon one of the simplest: asparagus covered and cooked in butter, a recipe popularized by the legendary Southern chef Edna Lewis, who championed, among other things, the use of fresh vegetables.
Lewis’s recipe is sneaky-clever, and more exacting than it looks: The trick is to wash the asparagus stalks a moment before you add them to the skillet, where a bath of foamy butter awaits. A tight-fitting lid is essential, as it turns that small sprinkling of water into just enough steam to lock in the stalks’ color and cook it to crisp-tender perfection.
Lewis’s technique works equally well on other long, green vegetables, such as green beans and scallions. Our version makes a couple of adjustments—not improvements—on the original recipe: we add thinly sliced spring onions (or scallions) at the beginning, and while Lewis eschewed extra seasoning in hers, we add a sprinkle of flaky salt to finish the dish.