Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
This was my mantra when we moved from Michigan to Indiana. We were doing or best to live ultra conservatively so that we could make gargantuan strides toward paying down our recently acquired student loans. Too bad life got in the way and our plans for gargantuan loan payments were foiled by several visits to the ER (2 by ambulance), major car repairs for both our vehicles and ya da ya da, life is expensive.
Needless to say, despite our best efforts, we were NOT able to pay down our loans as quickly as we had hoped – Boo! However, we did manage to form some good habits along the way. Perhaps you can’t tell from what I post on this blog, but we actually learned to eat conservatively. For the most part this translates to only dishing what you can eat and for me only cooking and buying what we should eat - in regards to portions, mostly. (I’m still working on the overall health factor, but eating healthy on our budget poses another challenge that I’ll address at a later time.) I have learned to hate wasting food. Perhaps I’m finally beginning to understand what my 1930’s depression-reared grandparents have been trying to teach me for as long as I can remember. – Waste not, Want not.
So here we are in 2011 when it’s chic to be conservative (so long as it pertains to your carbon footprint) and here I’ve got my little family doing our best to be chic. Now this brings me to asparagus ends. You think I’m kidding, right? Who cares about what happens to asparagus ends?! Throw them in the compost pile! (I’m not that chic yet, we don’t have a garden - therefore, no compost pile.)
Ok truth… I’ve never thought much about asparagus ends or apple cores, chicken bones or bacon fat (although we recently learned that mushrooms sautéed in bacon fat is quite tasty) so why bother about it now? Because Cook’s Country brought it to my attention, that’s why! Now I want to use ‘em up and Asparagus Gratin, Cooks Country Style, is how you do it.
Of course staying true to ATK fashion, they’ve already tested the alternatives with this recipe and what you have is the best of the best. Of course in the publication there is a detailed explanation as to why you shouldn’t use Gruyere and/or heavy cream but I’m just going to give you the recipe. If you want all that, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the publication yourself or just try the alternatives and see what happens.
2 pounds thin asparagus
3 cups water
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat)
¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Line broiler safe baking dish with paper towels or a lint free kitchen cloth. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and set both stalks and ends aside.
- Bring water to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus ends and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook covered, for 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove asparagus ends and discard. Add asparagus stalks to skillet, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender,2-4 minutes. Transfer asparagus to paper/cloth-lined baking dish. Pour asparagus water into liquid measuring cup. If liquid does not read 1-cup mark, add water until it does.
- Melt butter in now empty skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in reserved asparagus water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in ½ cup Parmesan and Monterey jack until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let stand for 5 minuets.
- Remove paper towels from baking dish. Drizzle sauce over center of asparagus and top with remaining Parmesan. Broil until cheese is golden and asparagus is tender, 4-8 minutes. Serve.
For a little something extra you can add bacon crumbles or sautéed mushrooms to the top of the asparagus before broiling. Also I noticed that each time I made this dish the cheese sauce was fairly thick. The only thing I altered was the use of shredded Parmesan cheese v. grated Parmesan – perhaps that difference determines why my sauce appeared to be thicker than the photo in Cooks Country. Since we didn’t have anything to compare the difference to, we had no complaints.
Source: Adapted from Cooks County April/May 2011 publication