Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cream of Asparagus on Toast

This recipe may seem old-fashioned to you, but we still love it in our family. I remember asking my Grandma if she could show me exactly how she made it. Of course there wasn't a recipe, but it is easy enough to make. She showed me how she would bend the asparagus, starting near the bottom, until she found the sweet spot where the stalk would naturally give way and snap in two. These days, I prefer to trim the bottoms and then peel them. However, if I am flush with asparagus, I snap the ends like my Grandma did.

You will want to make sure that your asparagus is washed well. The cooking water is used as part of the dish, so you don't want it to be sandy. Cover the asparagus with just enough water. If you find that the cooked asparagus is too soupy, drain some of the water off before adding the milk mixture. Take your time and really taste the asparagus for seasoning. Too little salt and you might as well not bother eating it. It isn't much to look at, so it better taste good.

I spent one long day picking asparagus for my Uncle Tom, who has a farm just east of Harrow. The pickers sat on the back of an apparatus that was pulled behind a tractor. Our bottoms were very low to the ground, while our feet were elevated to keep them out of the way. Each picker had a sharp knife and as we moved along the rows, we cut the asparagus near the base. It helped if you were quick and coordinated. Uncle Tom never did ask me back, making me wonder if I lacked one or both of those qualities...

Cream of Asparagus on Toast

1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T. flour
3 T. milk
1/4 t. sea salt
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
4 slices good-quality bread

1. Place the asparagus in a medium saucepan. Add water until just covered. Add a little salt and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Mash with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
2. Whisk together the milk and flour. Add to the asparagus and cook for another 3 minutes over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Toast the bread and butter the slices, if you wish. Spoon the asparagus over the toast and serve immediately.

Serves 2 or 3.