When I try a recipe for the first time, I never know for sure if I’m going to like it. Even though whoever it was tried the combination of flavours and tested the recipe a bunch of times, who knows if their taste is the same as mine?
This time though, I was pretty sure I’d like it. After all, it has so many of my favourite tastes in it… asparagus, cheese, buttery crackers, eggs and bacon. What’s wrong with those ingredients?
Nothing at all, that’s what. It may not have been much to look at, but it tasted great.
This is how I made this casserole.
Grabbed the asparagus.
Cut it into 2″ pieces then steamed it. Shocked it in ice water to stop it cooking, then left it to drain.
Cut the bacon into pieces and cooked them.
Took the bacon out to drain it and get rid of the bacon fat.
Added some butter to the pot, waited for it to get foamy, then cooked the onions.
Translucent onions were combined with nutmeg, cayenne pepper and salt.
After the onions had cooked for about three minutes, added the flour.
After a minute of cooking and stirring, the mustard was added, then the milk. Whisked and cooked until thickened which produced a bechamel.
While the bechamel was cooking, there was time to slice some previously boiled eggs;
crush some crackers; and
grate a mound of Gruyere cheese.
All the casserole ingredients were ready for assembling. First, a layer of bechamel, then almost all of the asparagus sprinkled with the bacon, then the egg slices followed by the cracker crumbs. The rest of the bechamel was poured over, then the remaining asparagus.
That was topped with the cheese and black pepper and baked for 25 minutes. After that, the oven was cranked up to broil so the cheese would be browned and bubbling.
Here’s the recipe:
Take this traditional southern side dish to the next level with smoky bacon, creamy bechamel and sharp gruyere.
Total Time 1 hour 30 mins
Prep 45 mins
2 bunches asparagus (about 2 pounds), cut into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
4 thick-slices bacon (about 4 ounces), chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (from 1/2 a small onion)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cups whole milk
4 large hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
1 cup butter crackers (such as Ritz), coarsely crushed (about 2 ounces)
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the upper third. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; prepare an ice bath. Add asparagus and cook until just tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to ice bath; drain.
2. Return pot to medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes; remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard rendered fat or reserve for another use. Add butter to same pot and heat over medium until foamy. Add onion, nutmeg, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in mustard, then gradually whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking often. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups bechamel.) If not using right away, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the sauce to keep a film from forming.
3. Spread 1 cup bechamel evenly across the bottom of a 9-inch-square baking dish. Reserving 1 cup for topping, sprinkle remaining asparagus over bechamel. Arrange reserved bacon in an even layer on top, followed by the sliced eggs, cracker crumbs and remaining bechamel. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup asparagus down the centre of the casserole, then sprinkle the cheese evenly on top and season with black pepper. Bake until sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Turn oven to broil setting and continue to cook until golden-brown on top, 3 to 4 minutes more. Let cool 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.