I feel that asparagus is very under utilized in southern cooking for some reason. Possibly because fresh asparagus can be a little expensive and some just plain don't know what to do with it. I prefer fresh asparagus to canned or frozen and always would rather use it. This is a simple recipe for "Asparagus Gratin", but the results are wonderful and this pairs with any main course. Even those who are not sure if they like asparagus might try this! Here is what you will need:
1 bunch fresh asparagus (get the youngest, thinnest spears)
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. lemon pepper
2 cups half and half (can use whole milk)
1 cup shredded cheddar Monterey Jack cheese blend ( can use just cheddar)
1/4 cups grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Place about 1 -2 inches of water in a large skillet and salt it. Wash the asparagus and break the woody ends off each spear. When you bend the asparagus spear it will break naturally at the end where the woody part is. On the really young asparagus, you won't have much of the woody part to get rid of. Place the asparagus in the water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, just to blanch it. Remove to a double thickness of paper towels to drain. Discard the water and wipe the pan dry.
Place the butter in the skillet and melt. Add the flour and whisk until it bubbles and cooks for a minute. Add the seasonings and milk. Whisk until it comes to a boil. Turn down heat and add whisk until it thickens. Add the cheeses.
Whisk until smooth. Place the asparagus spears in a shallow dish. Pour the cheese sauce overall. Place in a 450 degree oven on the highest rack for about 10-15 minutes.
It should be bubbly and just starting to brown on top!
Serve immediately! This is so good! It's a great side for a steak or pork chops!