White Asparagus Gratin a Seasonal Recipe to Celebrate Spring
During spring months in Provence, it is common to find fresh white and green asparagus in local markets, and the perfect excuse to make a white asparagus gratin.
In Germany, this particular season has a name: Spargelzeit. This phrase really just means “asparagus time”, but it sounds so poetic in German. And white asparagus time is the most special time of all.
Just a quick word on product labelling. Make sure to check the origin of the asparagus, or any all other fruit and vegetables for that matter. Under EU law, all vendors (in the markets and grocery stores) must readily display the pertinent details on the item. The required information includes where the produce comes from Pays d’Origine (this can be the country or region), Category (“Extra” is excellent but can be pricey, #1 is good quality ), Price (per unit or by weight) and other information such as Bio (organic).
White Asparagus Gratin
- 1 pound white asparagus or green
- a few sprigs Thyme
- 2 leaves fresh bay or 1 dried
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 2 tablespoons Flour
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoons truffle butter plus extra for the pan, or plain
- 1/2 cup Plain Crackers broken
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to boil.
- Trim the asparagus and peel it, leaving the tips and about 1 inch unpeeled.
- Reserve the peels.
- Place the asparagus in the boiling water, reduce heat and simmer for 7 minutes.
- While the asparagus is cooking, grease a gratin dish liberally with butter.
- When the asparagus is done, drain and arrange in the gratin dish. Set aside.
- Place asparagus peels, thyme, and bay leaves in a small saucepan. Add milk, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside to steep for 10 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Strain the herbed milk into the butter and flour mixture, and cook over medium heat until béchamel sauce is thick.
- Season with salt and pepper, and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Pour the béchamel over the asparagus.
- Melt the truffle butter in a small skillet; crush the cracker crumbs and add to the butter. Season well with pepper.
- Cook a minute or two, until the cracker crumbs take on some color.
- Sprinkle them over the béchamel sauce, and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and golden.