The problem with a cool spring is that all the fresh crops are delayed – until one day they’re all bursting forth, and then the warmth comes in, and the cool weather crops are gone. This year’s asparagus season was very short for us, but while it lasted, we ate asparagus nearly every day.
NOTE: this may be made with leftover asparagus spears. It may also be assembled ahead of time, refrigerated once the sauce is poured over, and heated in the oven, though of course the baking time will be longer.
serves 2, may be doubled
- 20 stalks asparagus, cooked
- 8-12 thin slices ham from the deli
- 1 cup milk, warmed
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- pinch nutmeg
- fresh grated pepper to taste
- 1/4 c cheese, shredded (a mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan is traditional, but use what’s on hand)
- extra Parmesan cheese for sprinkling the top
Grease a shallow baking dish. Wrap 5-stalk bundles of asparagus with 2 or 3 slices of ham. Place the bundles in one layer in the baking dish. Heat oven to 450˚F.
Make the Mornay sauce, which is a bechamel with cheese added in. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add flour, and stir well to combine. Let the flour cook a bit; you don’t want it to get dark, but you do want it to lose any raw taste. Add in the milk, and whisk well. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring all the while, and let it bubble about 1 minute. Lower heat, stir in the nutmeg, pepper, and shredded cheese. Keep whisking, and cook the sauce about 5 minutes more. You should end with a lovely smooth sauce of medium thickness.
Pour the sauce over the bundles in the baking dish. Sprinkle with a bit more shredded Parmesan, and bake 15-20 minutes, until the asparagus/ham bundles are warmed through, and the bits of cheese on top are browning.
Serve it forth, and don’t forget some crusty bread to sop up any extra sauce!