August 27, 2011
First off, credit where due. This dish was strongly inspired by a recipe from one of our favorite cooking blogs, Closet Cooking. The changes I've made are minimal, and I wouldn't even claim they represent an improvement from Kevin's recipe. My version is simply a bit different from his. His is excellent as well, though. In addition to his recipe for Asparagus Gratin, Kevin's blog contains a lot of other great recipes, and if you haven't checked it out, you're missing lots of great stuff.
This is a fast and easy dish to make. For a few minutes effort, you get tender asparagus smothered in a rich, delicious cheese sauce. That's a pretty good trade, if you ask me, and I am certain you'll agree if you try this one out for yourself.
Asparagus Gratin (inspired by Closet Cooking)
yield - 2-3 servings
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cleaned, stem ends reserved
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 pinch table salt
Prepare oven for high broil, with the top oven rack placed about 6 inches from the heating element.
Bring two cups of water to boil in a large skillet. Add the reserved stem pieces from the ends of the asparagus. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove the stems from the water. Add the asparagus and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus from the skillet to a baking dish. Reserve one cup of the water from the skillet.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook it until it starts to turn a light brown. Stir in the garlic and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour turns a light golden brown. Add the reserved asparagus water and cook, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, pepper and salt.
Pour the mixture over the asparagus in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, then put the baking dish in the oven and broil until the cheese has melted and turned golden-brown, about 4 minutes (but watch carefully). Remove from the oven and serve immediately.