Panko Breaded Asparagus with Pecorino Romano and Thyme

I picked up some nice asparagus at the fruit market and was wondering what to do with it when I realized I had panko breadcrumbs left over from the family vacation that I hadn't used yet. My mom usually uses them for breading shrimp, but I thought panko breaded asparagus would be something new and worth trying. Panko breadcrumbs are much "fluffier" and have more crunch than traditional breadcrumbs since they are made from crustless bread. This was my first attempt at panko-ing anything, and I thought it turned out quite well. The asparagus was fully cooked inside (maybe a little too soft, I might turn up the heat next time so the breading cooks faster), very tender and the rich earthy flavor came through nicely with the crunch of the panko. Also I enjoyed the sensation of eating something panko-ed with thyme and a strong cheese, as opposed to traditional Asian-style accompaniments.

Panko Breaded Asparagus with Pecorino Romano and Thyme

1/2 bunch asparagus (8 to 10 spears)
1 c Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c flour with sprinkle of salt
1 egg
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprig of fresh thyme
1/4 c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  1. Cut off ends of asparagus spears and wash. Prepare 3 shallow bowls or plates: one with beaten egg, one with tempura flour, and one with the breadcrumbs.
  2. Meanwhile fill a large saucepan with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil over medium-low heat. The oil is ready for frying when a piece of breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden brown after a minute or two.
  3. Dredge the asparagus first in the flour, then egg, and lastly in the breadcrumbs. Drop in the oil and fry on one side until golden brown, then same for the other side. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes on each side. Then place them on a plate with paper towel to collect excess oil.
  4. After doing this for all the spears, arrange them on a plate and season with pepper, more salt if necessary, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, and fresh thyme.

Next up: An ice cream for autumn!
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