Sunday, May 8, 2011

Asparagus: a) simple and b) with Gruyère cheese baked in oven

In order to experiment with both white and green asparagus and get clarity whether I really don´t like the white asparagus I took a mix of both green and white asparagus. A lot of controversy exists which one is better. The white asparagus is considered in Europe to be the delicate and elegant one and highly prized. However a lot of people I know like the green better. Both are the same plant, the white one grows under the soil, does not get any light and does not build any clorophyll. Hence the white colour. The green one grows on the ground.  

a) The very simpe basic recipe to cook asparagus is to peel the thick ends and cut off the very bottom 2 cm. Do peel the white spears well as the skin can be really tough. It may not be visible raw, but you will notice it when eating. Then blanch them in salted boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and adding a knob of butter cook till the butter melts, stir and add black pepper and/or grated nutmeg. Serve hot straight away with prociutto, salmon or potato. The slimmer green spears do not need peeling (so much) and can be cooked in a grill pan with a little butter for a few minutes et voilà, ready it is.
The white spears tend to grow quite thick, the green is generally slimmer. The white produces more waste when preparing through the thick peel and cutting off more of the ends. Therefore also more costly.
If not overcooked the white asparagus can be equally delicious, even though the optics of the green version are more appetising.

b)  Baked in the oven with Gruyère cheese
My advice would be not to blanch the asparagus in this recipe at all to avoid it becoming too soft and slimy. If you have very thick spears like a big handed man´s thumbs a brief 2 minute blanching would be fine.

Makes 4

750g asparagus, a mix or just one type (I took 250g of white and 500g green asparagus)
30g butter
70g bacon or prociutto
100g gruyère cheese, freshly grated (other well melting stronger cheese can be used)
5-6 large eggs
A few roughly cut small chunks of parmesan
Freshly chopped flat parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C.
Peel the white asparagus and green if you think the peel is tough and cut off the coarse woody ends. Cut the spears diagonally into 3cm pieces. Take a gratin dish and butter the bottom of it a little. Put the asparagus on the bottom.
Cut the bacon or prociutto into smaller pieces. I pre-fried the bacon to get out some of the fat for a healthier option. Layer the bacon on the asparagus. Add the grated Gruyère cheese.
Mix the eggs in a bowl and pour on the asparagus. Add the chopped parsley and the parmesan on top.
Bake for 30minutes till the cheese forms a slight crust.
Asparagius with gruyere cheese
Asparagus gratin, best with gruyere, but other melting cheese is fine too