from one generation to the next
I love fresh asparagus so much that I’m an asparagus “piggie” for the most of spring. One of my very favourite ways of eating it is simply dipped into softly poached egg yolk then rolled in crisp buttery breadcrumbs. I’m salivating merely writing these words.
Blanched, grilled or barbequed, hot, warm or cold, dressed or undressed, as soup, in pasta sauce or risotto, frittata or tart, asparagus everything is served at my table in spring. This year asparagus is cheap and plentiful.
I was making Asparagus Milanese long before fresh asparagus was widely available in Australia, when it was perfectly acceptable to serve asparagus from a can. I have no recollection of where the recipe came from, it’s scribbled into my historic recipe folder, but unlike many other ideas from there, it’s still good today. Asparagus Milanese is quick to prepare, can be made ahead and is flexible enough to be made to suit any number. It makes an interesting breakfast and a satisfying light meal.
Asparagus has a natural affinity with both cheese and cured pork. Don’t limit yourself to ham though, prosciutto, serrano and bacon work well, and while my first choice of cheese is gruyere, you may prefer parmesan or cheddar. I like to serve some crusty bread or toast beside Asparagus Milanese so I can mop up the delicious cheesy juices from my plate.
Asparagus Milanese : for 2
12 fat spears of asparagus
4 slices of ham
1/4 cup cream (I used lactose free)
2 turns of the nutmeg grater
black pepper to taste
30g gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon butter
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus spears then peel the bottom 1/3 of each.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water then as soon as it returns to the boil, remove from the heat, drain, then refresh the asparagus in iced water. Once the spears are cool, drain them on a clean tea towel.
Preheat the grill to 200C. Butter a shallow heatproof dish.
Mix together the cream, pepper and nutmeg.
Trim the slices of ham so the asparagus will peek out the ends. Lay three spears of asparagus in each slice of ham and roll into a neat bundle.
Lay them into the buttered dish.
Sprinkle half the cheese over the asparagus, spoon over the cream then sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Dot with the surface with butter.
Put the dish under the grill far enough away that the bundles will warm through before the cheese becomes brown and bubbly, 8-10 minutes.