Throughout the growing season, we'll interview local farmers, chefs and other food lovers about seasonal cooking.
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The spring farmer's markets all over Omaha are rife with asparagus. Though it's not one of the more unusual things to feature here, it's certainly one of the most popular, and a number of readers have asked for ways to prepare it.
Our favorite way is so simple that it doesn't even require a recipe. Wash the asparagus and break off the woody ends. Coat the bunch with a good glug or two of olive oil and a fair amount of sea salt and good black pepper and grill until crisp-tender.
I made asparagus this way one recent weekend and a friend called the dish “asparagus fries.” They disappeared almost as fast as the real thing.
We're including a recipe this week that's just a touch more complicated than grilling. It would work as a side dish to almost anything you cook on your grill — beef, pork, fish or chicken.
Creamy Baked Asparagus and Aged Cheddar
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody ends (about 20 spears)
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon of dry powdered mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
¼-½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste
1½ cups grated aged white cheddar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center of oven.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
If your asparagus is thick, blanch it in a large pan of salted water for one minute, remove and refresh in ice water, or microwave on a plate for about 90 seconds. If your asparagus is thin, you’re probably good to go as is.
Divide the asparagus in half and lay on parchment on baking sheet with the cut ends touching in the middle. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. Return to the heat, stir and simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened.
Remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Taste and add more salt, as needed. Season with freshly ground pepper.
Pour sauce over the middle of the asparagus. Top with the grated cheddar cheese.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, then move rack to upper part of oven, switch your oven to broil and broil until the sauce is bubbly and golden. Top with a bit more freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.
— Recipe courtesy seasonsandsuppers.ca