The first asparagus of the season have been making an appearance on the markets lately, their cheerful, bright green spears – a sure sign that spring is here, and I can’t get enough of these tender, fresh stalks. It’s usually a short season, although perhaps, here in California, we get them a little earlier, and get to enjoy them a bit longer. I sure hope, due to the fair amount of rain this year, asparagus season will extend beyond May. Still, they taste the sweetest while in their peak – March and April, so I take advantage as much as I can.
Although my favorite way of preparing asparagus is simply sauteing them with salt, black pepper and a dollop of crème fraîche, or quickly browning them on the BBQ with olive oil, balsamic and garlic to become a great side to meats and seafood, if I want to feature the asparagus as the main star of the table, then I make this asparagus and mushroom gratin.
It’s so delicious and full of fresh flavors, you will have a taste of spring in your mouth at every bite. It’s a delicate dish, and one that tastes best right after cooking. It makes a spectacular starter, or a great dinner, served with a green salad.
The mellow earthly taste of mushrooms, goes so well with the mild asparagus, all in a bath of light creamy sauce, with fresh accents from the dill, and green onions. It’s a spring treat!
I like to use flavored breadcrumbs, which I make by toasting old Italian bread like Pugliese or Ciabatta, with olive oil and garlic. The use of crème fraîche gives the dish another layer of subtle tang and freshness, spiced with a bit of garlic, and black pepper. I sprinkle lots of fresh dill after I cook the dish, so you can actually taste it.
Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine!
- 1 lbs mushrooms
- 1 lbs asparagus
- ½ cup crème fraîche
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6-7 spring onions
- ¼ cup toasted garlic bread crumbs
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
- salt & black pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg
- a handful of fresh dill
- Preheat oven to 400 °F
- Saute mushrooms in 1 tbs of olive oil, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper for 6-7 minutes.
- Blanche the asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and put in cold water.
- Mix creme fraiche with the minced garlic, black pepper and salt.
- Mix breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese.
- Layer the bottom of a shallow baking dish with all of the sauteed mushrooms.
- Sprinkle half of the crème fraîche sauce, top with half of the breadcrumb + Parmesan mix, and half of the spring onions, salt and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Start the second layer by arranging all of the asparagus tightly next to each other on top, add the rest of the crème fraîche, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan + breadcrumbs, spring onions, and all of the Gruyere cheese. Finish with another dusting of nutmeg.
- Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve warm, with chopped fresh dill on top.
Click here to show / hide the full nutritional information for this recipe.