I am so excited! This weekend at the farmers market I came across the first of the local, Ontario fresh produce! Spring certainly has been taking its time in coming this year but now it finally starts with the asparagus. You can be sure that I picked some of that asparagus up and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. I was thinking that a simple asparagus gratin would be the perfect way to welcome the asparagus in, I mean, how could you go wrong smothering some juicy asparagus smothered in melted cheese?
Normally I would make this asparagus gratin with gruyere or parmigiano reggiano but this time I had another idea. Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada . At the gala I had the chance to taste the winning cheeses in each category and I was particularly taken by the over all winner, the Louis D'or, an organic firm cheese made in Quebec. After the gala, I managed to track down some of the Louis D'or and I figure that it would be great to enjoy it with the first of the years local asparagus in this asparagus gratin. ( Flickr gallery of photos from the gala. )
In general gratins are generally made either with a cream base or with a bechamel sauce base and this time I went with a bechamel sauce because I wanted to try something new with it. I had recently come across the idea of saving asparagus stems to make broth with and although I save a lot of other things to use to make broths, I had not thought about saving asparagus stems. Even though I had not had the chance to save a lot of asparagus stems I was thinking that it would be nice to use the water that the asparagus was cooked in as the liquid in the bechamel sauce in stead of milk or a vegetable broth.
I like to play around with this recipe and it is easy to use different cheeses and I often add different herbs to the bechamel or this time I simply garnished it with some chives. Sometimes I even spike the bechamel sauce with a bit of Dijon mustard to make it a touch bolder! I have to say that I was quite pleased with this version with the asparagus bechamel sauce and it certainly was an amazing way to use the first of the Ontario asparagus!
Asparagus in a cheese sauce and topped with even more cheese that is baked until the cheese has melted into ooey gooey goodness.
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cleaned, reserving the stems
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup gruyere or parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) or Louis d'Or, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring the water and reserved asparagus stems to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes then remove the stems from the water.
- Add the asparagus to the water and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the asparagus from the water and place in a baking dish, reserving 1 cup of the water.
- Melt the butter in a pan and let it bubble until it starts to turn a light brown.
- Mix in the flour and cook until it starts to turn a light golden brown.
- Add the reserved asparagus water and cook, stirring, until it thickens.
- Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and let it melt.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the mixture over the asparagus in the baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.
- Broil until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown, about 4-6 minutes, watching it carefully.