Food

Asparagus Gratin: An irresistibly decadent spring side dish

Fresh spring produce slathered with a creamy béchamel and Gruyere cheese.

Fresh spring produce slathered with a creamy béchamel and Gruyere cheese

(Photography by Marcella DiLonardo)

When people hear spring, they tend to think of flowers. When I hear spring, I think asparagus. In addition to being healthy, asparagus is such a versatile vegetable. While I am a fan of a simple roasted or grilled asparagus, I love breaking out of my comfort zone when it comes to savoury sides. Enter the asparagus gratin! For those new to gratins, they are French-inspired side dishes topped with cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. For the base of this recipe, I opted to make a decadent béchamel sauce, infused with freshly grated Gruyere cheese, which perfectly complements the fresh, clean flavour of the asparagus.

Asparagus Gratin

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh asparagus, blanched & ends trimmed
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside until ready to use.

Toss together the asparagus, olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. 

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking until the mixture begins to darken slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and mustard, followed by the milk and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk until mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in 1 ½ cups of cheese. Pour mixture over the asparagus. 

In a separate small mixing bowl toss together the breadcrumbs, remaining olive oil, remaining cheese, salt and pepper. 

Sprinkle over prepared dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: Makes 6-8 servings


Marcella DiLonardo is the author of the cookbook Bake The Seasons & creator of the blog Hey Modest Marce. She is a freelance recipe developer, food photographer & stylist. Follow her latest culinary adventures over on @modestmarce.

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