Friday, January 21, 2011

Soy-Sake Asparagus

The Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook has a whole chapter on making side dishes in the slow cooker, one that I haven't really had an opportunity to take advantage of.  There are many reasons for this, the primary one being that I'd rather make a main dish or a full meal in the crock pot than just a side dish (in which case I'd still have to come home and cook.  (The second major reason is that vegetable dishes often cook faster than meat dishes, so they're not ones that you can leave on all day.)  However, the Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing that I made over Thanksgiving lasted for quite a while, such that I finished all the green beans that I had made to go with it and by early December needed to come up with another vegetable side in order to finish off the leftovers.

I was excited to try one of the side dishes in my cookbook, so I looked through the chapter and decided on Soy-Sake Asparagus, which I made on December 7.  This dish was pretty easy, but had to be made when I got home from school because it only cooks for just over an hour.  You prep the asparagus normally--cleaning it and snapping off the ends--before laying it in the crock pot.

There are very few other ingredients to be added.  Most important, of course, is the soy sauce and sake.  This dish, unfortunately, ends up not being the cheapest dish to make because of the sake.  You only need one tablespoon and in the grocery store, you can only get a full bottle.  My roommate suggested next time that I might just go to a nearby Japanese restaurant and ask if they could give me a little bit of sake instead of purchasing the whole bottle.  Has anyone ever done that when cooking with sake?

So, you drizzle on a little bit of soy sauce, sake, and olive oil, adding a pinch of brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Obviously, I did not add any salt to my dish, especially because I figured that the soy sauce would be enough for a salty flavor.  The fun part of this recipe is that you have to toss the asparagus to coat it with all the seasonings, and the only real way to do this effectively is with your hands.  Then you cook it on high for between an hour and fifteen minutes and an hour and a half.  The cookbook suggests serving it with toasted sesame seeds as an optional garnish, but I decided not to bother with that.

This is what the asparagus looked like after being tossed.

And this is what it looked like after cooking.

According to the recipe, you're supposed to get four or five servings out of this dish.  I, unfortunately, got nowhere near that many servings, but that is possibly my fault.  I mean, this asparagus was absolutely delicious.  So I served myself generous portions and even snacked on the asparagus cold as I was putting it away and taking it out to serve each time.  The asparagus was cooked just perfectly, tender but firm.  I think in the end I had maybe three servings (not counting the snacking that I did each time).  My large servings were about 125 calories each, but the normal size serving that the recipe expects you'll have is only about 70-90 calories per serving.  I'm not going to bother to calculate the cost per serving of this dish because I'm sure that it's high because of the sake, however, this dish did include a lot of ingredients that I normally have in the house already: olive oil, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Because of this, if you can get sake another way (as in not buying a whole bottle), this dish could actually be really cheap to make, good for the grad student budget.

Now, I started off this post explaining why I hadn't made many side dishes in my crock pot (the same could be said about desserts actually), but my problems have recently been solved.  I received a great surprise Christmas gift in the mail this week from my friend Roopsi.
The dual crock pot that I've been coveting!!!  I actually told Roopsi that I was going to make a whole post about receiving this gift, but it ended up fitting in to this post about making side dishes in the crock pot.  Now I don't have to worry anymore about using up the crock pot to make a side dish because I can make a main dish on one side and either a side dish or a dessert on the other.  The only drawback here is that each pot is smaller, so I might not be able to make a whole recipe of a main dish, but I'm still excited about it!  Stay tuned for some exciting new dual-dish posts in the future!


  1. My fiance, after reading this post, also suggested that one could go to a liquor store where they sometimes have small bottles of liquors because they might have a similarly small bottle of sake.

  2. I don't think a restaurant would be legally allowed to give it to you :-( A big liquor store might be the trick. Another is to find a use for the sake with other dishes and only buy expensive big things when you have a whole asian-theme going for a bit.

    You might also try Rice Wine Vinegar as a substitute next time - it is cheaper, lasts longer, and can be used in other things. It would not be exactly the same flavor, but I think it would still be yummy! - LMD