Asparagus With Nori Butter – Recipe

Asparagus with nori butter
Asparagus with nori butter

I’m in the middle of a two-week stage at Canlis, a terrific fine-dining restaurant in Seattle. [The stage is over now, and I’ve written a little about what I learned.] One of the many delicious items on Chef Franey’s menu is an asparagus with sauce gribiche. At Canlis we use much more classical French technique than I typically apply in my home cooking. I thought I would apply some of those ideas towards this asparagus with nori butter, though of course the level of refinement is not as high as what we serve at the restaurant.

I think you will like the nori butter. It brings umami intensity and a slightly sweet funkiness that pairs beautifully with the asparagus.

The garnishes for this dish are nori strips, sesame seeds, Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) , miso-lemon sauce, finely diced lemon zest, and chive tips. Don’t feel obligated to make it this complicated at home! You could just as easily toss the asparagus with the nori butter and salt and have a delicious side dish.

You can do all of the prep up to a day in advance, and simply reheat the butter and blanched asparagus when you are ready to serve.

Asparagus with Nori Butter
Serves 4 as a side dish
Vegetarian and gluten-free

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 sheet of nori seaweed
  • 24 stems of beautiful medium thick asparagus
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup white miso
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) or other flaky salt
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • 24 chive tips
  • thin nori strips, which you can buy separately or cut with scissors from a sheet
  1. Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil and set up a ice bath.
  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Tear the nori sheet into rough pieces and infuse over very low heat for five minutes. Allow to rest 15 more minutes, then strain through a fine mesh.
  3. Juice half the lemon and reserve. Cut the juice half in half again, squish flat on your cutting board, and carefully remove all of the white pith, leaving only yellow skin. Square this piece off.
  4. Blanch the lemon skin in the boiling water for 30 seconds, shock in the ice bath and drain on paper towels. Cut first into 1/16″ strips (fine julienne) and then into 1/16″ squares (brunoise).
  5. Cut the asparagus to uniform length and use a paring knife to remove all the little random leaves that aren’t part of the main tip. Blanch the asparagus until crisp-tender and bright green. The tip of a knife should go in easily but offer a hint of resistance. Shock in the ice water, drain, and reserve.
  6. Whisk together the miso, mirin and juice of 1/2 lemon. Aim for a consistency where you can make a dot of sauce on a plate and it will stand up. Put in a squeeze bottle.
  7. At this point you can reserve everything for up to 1 day.
  8. When you are ready to serve, have 4 hot plates waiting, and set an oven or toaster oven to 500 degrees. Melt the nori butter. Bring the miso sauce back to room temperature. Brush the asparagus with the nori butter. Reheat the asparagus (this should just take about 3 minutes).
  9. To plate, arrange the asparagus in a neat row. Drizzle on more of the nori butter. Add neat lines of nori strips and sesame seeds. Make 6 dots of the miso sauce and top each one with a chive tip. Randomly place bits of blanched lemon zest. Sprinkle liberally with the Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) and serve.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 in Appetizers, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Seattle, Side Dishes.

12 Responses to “Asparagus With Nori Butter – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    I’m floored. This is simply brilliant. I love asparagus, but honestly, I never thought I would be so excited about an asparagus recipe. Hoping you are going to fill us in on some more details about your stint at Canlis. 🙂

  2. Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    This sounds good and I have all the ingredients at hand! Just made a delicious marinade of white miso, lemon juice and honey on chicken thighs (from Breakaway Cook) and this seems like it would be good. Love finding new ways to use new ingredients and have some fantastic asparagus from the farmer’s market. Btw, learned that you can store asparagus in a glass of water, like you would flowers, standing in your frig to keep them fresher.

  3. Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    I think this food dish is very fit for spring. When i have time ,i will try to do it.

  4. Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Love asparagus and love your recipe!!

  5. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 21, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Thanks Ellen! Good tip on how to store asparagus, I imagine that would work well.

  6. Reply
    April 21, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Great! I think asparagus are well suited for Japanese style food.

  7. Reply
    April 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    This looks great. I have a bunch of fat asparagus from PCC in my fridge right now that I am going to use to make (the simple version of) this recipe!
    I have been making various asparagus-orzo dishes lately. I added one of them to my blog last week.
    link to

  8. Reply
    May 5, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    I’ve already made this twice this week and this morning I bought a fresh bunch of asparagus so I can make it again tonight. I skipped the fussy parts and roasted the asparagus instead of steaming it (I’m a sucker for roasted veggies) and holy cripes. AMAZING. The nori butter is what totally sends this recipe over the top. Nirvana in my mouth. For serious.

  9. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 5, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Hey Rachel – I'm so glad you like it! And I'm glad you are making it your own. To me, that is the beauty of a recipe, to have it be a starting point for what *you* want to eat, not a rulebook.

  10. Reply
    May 5, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Nori butter! What an amazing idea. I’ve done asparagus a couple of times already this year, but nothing like this. The taste buds in my brain are telling me that the miso sauce is going to just lock everything together.

    Now you’ve got me thinking back to my macrobiotic diet days. Hmmm … arame-sesame compound butter? Or maybe wakame-white miso, instead.

    You’re an inspiration, Michael.

  11. Reply
    May 13, 2010 at 5:39 am #

    1. I made this recipe for the family last night. Universal praise. But it IS pretty fussy, and I’d probably skip some of the steps next time.

    2. You missed a critical opportunity: when you strain the nori butter, the remaining nori is NOT ‘throw away’ material…it’s absolutely wonderful. Sort of like a vegetarian version of goose cracklings. My kids liked the asparagus, but they LOVED the nori-cracklings!

    3. For the fussy bits — the lemon-peel squares and the dots of miso/mirin/lemon-juice — alternative tools can be your friend: sharp scissors for the little squares, and a large hypodermic syringe for making the little dots. I’d also suggest that slightly larger squares (like 1/8″) might work better when you’re serving on a white plate; the 1/16″ ones were almost too small to notice.

    4. This recipe makes imbalanced amounts: about 3/4 of the miso/mirin mix was left over after plating 5 dishes; about 1/2 of the lemon-peel squares, and about 1/3 of the nori-butter, even though I only used about 4T of butter. That’s all fine…but if someone wanted to do 8 plates instead of 4, all they’d need to do is double the amount of asparagus and not much else. Alternatively, you can use the miso/mirin thing on your next salad, the nori butter for your scrambled eggs in the morning, etc.

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    @John – thanks for all the detailed feedback on this dish, especially the tip about the nori "cracklins", I can't wait to try that. You are quite right that the recipe makes more nori butter and miso sauce than you will need for 24 spears of asparagus, it is more the sort of minimum practical amounts to make of those two items. I like your ideas of what to do with the extras :). Nori butter has that umami thing going almost like truffle butter.

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