Asparagus Au Gratin

From “Spring Entertaining 2013,” Cooks Illustrated

2 lbs thin asparagus
2 1/2 cups of water
salt & pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 oz (1/2 cup) sharp Canadian cheddar cheese shredded (the original calls for Monterrey Jack)
1 1/2 oz (3/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese

Set oven rack 8 inches from broiler element
Line broiler safe baking sheet with paper towels
Trim 1 1/2 inches from stem end of the asparagus spears and set aside
Bring water to a boil in 12 inch skillet on medium high heat
Add asparagus ends and salt to skillet cover and cook for 5 minutes
Remove stems
Cook spears 2 to 4 minutes in skillet with the asparagus broth
Transfer spears to prepared baking sheet resting on paper towels
Reserve 1 cup of water from skillet then empty
Add butter to skillet over medium heat
Whisk in flour for 1 minute
Whisk in remaining asparagus water for 3 to 5 minutes simmer until thick and smooth
Remove from heat and whisk in cheese mix until smooth
Cover skillet for 5 minutes
Remove paper towel from baking sheet
Rack up the asparagus
Smother in cheese sauce and bake for 6 to 8 minutes

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