This recipe works best with asparagus that is at least ˝ inch thick near the base. If using thinner spears, reduce the covered cooking time to 3 minutes and the uncovered cooking time to 5 minutes. Do not use pencil-thin asparagus; it cannot withstand the heat and overcooks too easily.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds thick asparagus spears (see note), ends trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
˝ lemon (optional)
1. Heat the oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add half of the asparagus to the skillet with the tips pointed in one direction; add the remaining spears with the tips pointed in the opposite direction. Using tongs, distribute the spears in an even layer (the spears will not quite fit into a single layer); cover and cook until the asparagus is bright green and still crisp, about 5 minutes.
2. Uncover and increase the heat to high; season the asparagus with salt and pepper. Cook until the spears are tender and well browned along one side, 5 to 7 minutes, using the tongs to occasionally move the spears from the center of the pan to the edge of the pan to ensure all are browned. Transfer the asparagus to a serving dish, adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, and, if desired, squeeze the lemon half over the spears. Serve immediately.