Warm Buttered Asparagus

This dish is the simplest of luxuries: asparagus spears peeled and simmered in salted water till they're cooked through, at which point they take on an almost custardy tenderness, then buttered. Do try it, if you've never eaten them this way, or haven't in some time. Or you can skip the butter and dress the spears in vinaigrette, or even eat them plain. Want to go fancy? Try them with a traditional or new-wave gribiche.  If you have more or less asparagus than the suggested 1 1/2 pounds (which generously serves four), it doesn't matter: Nothing needs to be measured; this is more a technique than a recipe. It works with asparagus spears of any thickness, except those so skinny you wouldn't be able to peel them. (I prefer to roast or grill those.)

Serves 4.

Ingredients

About 1 1/2 pounds asparagus

Sea salt or Kosher salt

A pat of butter (about a tablespoon)

Instructions

1. Trim the woody bottom ends off the asparagus stalks, then use a vegetable peeler to peel each stalk to about two-thirds of the way up. This is easiest if you lay the stalk flat on a cutting board as you gently peel, so the stalk doesn't break.

2. Bring a wide, shallow pan of water to a boil over high heat and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Lay the asparagus in flat (you'll want it completely submerged), cover the pan, and simmer until the asparagus stalks flop down on the ends when you lift them in the middle with tongs – about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes for medium-thin to medium spears, longer for jumbos.

3. Use the tongs to transfer to a platter, and pour off any water that accumulates. Top with the butter and slide the pat around the spears to let it melt. Serve immediately.