I will never turn my nose up at a mayo-dressed picnic salad — be it chicken, egg, tomato, or broccoli — but I get downright excited if I see a good brocc salad at a potluck. My favourite broccoli salad is slightly kitschy: It’s got mayo (of course), but also bacon, red onion, cheddar cheese, a splash of red wine vinegar, and maybe some candied pecans and/or cranberries. And it’s very good. But broccoli isn’t the only green vegetable that thrives when kitsch-ified. Asparagus loves the mayo-bacon-cheese treatment.
It doesn’t take a food scientist, or even a food writer, to understand why this works. Mayo, bacon, and cheese can make anything taste good and — much like broccoli — asparagus is one of those vegetables that already tastes pretty good. In-season asparagus has a slight edge over broccoli, though. It’s a little sweeter, a little more tender, a little sunnier — everything you want in a salad that’s meant to be enjoyed at a picnic.
Before we get to the recipe, a quick note: Whether you make this type of salad with broccoli or asparagus, please — for the love of all that is delicious — please blanche your green vegetables. Truly raw vegetables can feel a little rubbery on the teeth, and blanching takes that edge off — and makes them greener! — while preserving that fresh flavour. All you need to blanch is a big pot of boiling water, but for very thin, delicate vegetables, I like to pour the water over the plant parts, rather than submerge them.
Anyway, you don’t really need a recipe to apply the broccoli salad philosophy to asparagus. You can go on AllRecipes and type “broccoli salad” and follow a recipe, save for subbing in asparagus for broccoli. But I do have a recipe, because I wanted to eat asparagus à la broccoli salad, so I might as well share what I did.
How to make asparagus in the style of broccoli salad
- 450 g asparagus (I like to use the thicker stalks for this)
- 6 strips of bacon
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about half an onion)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Candied pecans and/or dried cranberries
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath and set it aside. While the water is heating, get your bacon crispy. You can cook whole strips in a pan or in the oven, and then crumble it, or you can chop it up and toss it in the air fryer at 190° for 7-10 minutes.
Once the water is boiling, submerge the asparagus for a minute or two until it is bright green. (Time will vary depending on the thickness of your asparagus.) Remove from the pot and plunge into the ice bath. Let chill for 5-10 minutes until the asparagus is completely cool. Chop on the bias (diagonally) and place in a big mixing bowl.
Add bacon, onion, cheese, mayo, and vinegar, and toss everything together. Taste, season with salt and pepper, taste again, and adjust if needed. Add a big handful of candied pecans and/or cranberries in there, and toss again. Garnish with more candied pecans and/or cranberries, then devour. This salad will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, but you should let it warm up a bit on the counter before serving. (I just ate some for breakfast.)