Asparagus & Spring Onion Croque Monsieur

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asparagus and/or spring onions, ends trimmed
olive oil
kosher salt

good bread, cut into thick slices
bechamel sauce (recipe below)
grated gruyère, Comté or Swiss cheese
fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Toss the asparagus and spring onions with olive oil and kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Test with a knife for doneness.

2. Preheat the broiler. Place the slices of bread on a sheet pan and broil them about a minute on each side. Remove pan from the oven. Spread about a tablespoon of bechamel over each slice of bread. Top with the roasted vegetables. Top with grated cheese to taste.

3. Broil until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Bechamel:
Source: Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever–from Thursday Nights at Campanile

Note: This recipe is adapted from Silverton’s recipe for Mornay sauce in her croque monsieur recipe in her Sandwich Book. To make it a Mornay sauce, as far as I can tell, stir in 1/2 cup finely grated Gruyère and 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the very end.

Also Note: This makes enough bechamel for about 30 croque monsieurs. I haven’t tried having the recipe, but it likely would work just fine. I don’t use bechamel that often, so I’m short on ideas for using up the remaining bechamel. Thoughts? I just plan on eating croque monsieur every day until I’m out of bechamel.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium white or yellow onion (about 4 tablespoons finely chopped)
kosher salt
4 black peppercorns, crushed (I didn’t do this)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 bayleaf

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns (if using), and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but has not begun to color. Remove from the heat and add the flour in two batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t brown. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk. Drop in the bay leaf.

2. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth and silky. If it’s too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you’ll need to whisk in a little more milk.

3. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the sauce. (I didn’t strain the sauce — I don’t mind those onion bits, and the bay leaf was easy enough to pull out. Now, if you did the peppercorn thing, you probably want to strain the sauce.)

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Asparagus & Spring Onion Croque Monsieur

Bizzare Foods Monday: Wild Asparagus Pizza

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Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Makes 1 thin crust 12-inch pizza

1 recipe Really Simple Pizza Dough or your favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.

Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler (a Y-shaped peeler works best here, but I only had a standard, old and pretty dull peeler and it still worked; a mandolin would also work, in theory, but I found it more difficult to do it that way), create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and be sure to try one — I bet you can hardly believe how good raw asparagus can taste.

Assemble and bake pizza: Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Either transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a floured or cornmeal-dusted tray to bake it on. Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

More ways to tweak this: Pinch of red pepper flakes (toss with asparagus), squeeze of lemon juice (over the asparagus, after you remove it from the oven), sprinkle of truffle salt or few drops of truffle oil (if you’ve got it; also at end) or up to 3 eggs (bake pizza for 8 minutes, break eggs on top, then finish cooking pizza and eggs together)

Finally, if you’ve got a grill going, this pizza seems almost destined for it. When I grill pizza, I throw the whole dough down on an oiled grill and let it cook for a few minutes on the underside. I pull it off with tongs, flip it out onto a plate and pile the toppings on the grilled side, before sliding the raw side back onto the grill. Grill the pizza with the lid down for a few minutes, or until everything is bubbly and brown.

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/05/shaved-asparagus-pizza/

Bizzare Foods Monday: Wild Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Lemon Pasta

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Ingredients

Nutrition

Directions

  1. Cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal, or just into 3 pieces.
  2. In a steamer set over boiling water steam asparagus, covered, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. set aside.
  3. In a 6-quart kettle bring 5 quarts salted water to a boil for pasta.
  4. In a deep 12-inch skillet heat butter and cream over moderately low heat until butter is melted and stir in zest, lemon juice, and salt. Remove skillet from heat and keep sauce warm, covered.
  5. Add pasta to boiling water and boil, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Ladle 1/4 cup pasta water into sauce and drain pasta in colander.
  6. Immediately add pasta and asparagus to sauce and cook over moderate heat, tossing, 1 minute, or until heated through. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste and toss well.
  7. Sprinkle pasta with a little Parmesan and serve more Parmesan on the side.
Asparagus Lemon Pasta

Shit on a Shingle

Don’t let the name fool you, it’s really good. The shingles are pieces of toast and the shit is sausage, asparagus and cream of chicken soup. My mother-in-law taught me this recipe and that’s what she called it, so it shall remain!

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Brown 1 lb sausage in a skillet. When about halfway done, add the asparagus. When sausage is browned and asparagus almost tender, add cream of chicken soup and a can on milk. Simmer until thick. Meanwhile, toast 2 pieces of bread per person. Tear up bread into bite sized pieces and pour sausage mixture over the top. Serve hot.

Shit on a Shingle

Lamb with Mojito Jelly

My dumb ass forgot to take any pictures last night because we had guests over, but you’ll have to trust me that we had a lovely Spring inspired dinner of Lamb with mint jelly, blackened cauliflower and bacon wrapped asparagus.

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Behold! The Mojito jelly!

To make the lamb; just season both sides with garlic salt and freshly cracked pepper, melt some butter in a pan and pan fry on high about 4 minutes each side. Tent with foil to rest. Both lamb breast (really cheap cut with lots of fat, it’s like lamb bacon!) and chops work great with this. Serve with jelly below.

For the asparagus; trim asparagus ends and wrap with bacon. Set on a cookie sheet with bacon ends tucked under. I got thick cut bacon, so I cut the pieces on the lengthwise and in half. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes until bacon crisps.

For the roasted cauliflower; Cut up cauliflower into bite sized pieces and toss with enough olive oil and salt to coat. Add pepper if you like. Line a baking dish or cookie sheet (whatever will fit in your broiler) with parchment paper. Bake cauliflower in lined dish 20-25 minutes until just tender. Get broiler going and roast the cauliflower in there until it’s sufficiently toasted to blackened. You’ll want to go and stir them up or flip them from time to time, but you want some blackened bits.

Mojito Jelly Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 cups loosely-packed fresh mint leaves (or 1 cup tightly packed), stalks/stems removed
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup bottled lime juice
2 tablespoons powdered pectin (or 1 tablespoon Jamsetta)
3 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons white rum
2 drops green colouring (optional)

Directions:
Prepare mint, steep in water.
Wash mint well, then remove any stems or stalks. Roughly chop the mint leaves then add into a small saucepan with the water, which should just cover the leaves. Bring to a boil then simmer for two minutes, then turn the heat off and cover the pot, steep for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has cooled, while you heat the jars. Strain the liquid, squeezing any liquid from the leaves.

Pre-heat jars.
For each batch, you’ll want to pre-heat your jars (I use half pint (125ml) or 4oz (75ml) jars) by covering in water and simmering for about 10 minutes. When we are ready to ladle the jelly into the jars, I heat the lids in the already hot water. The rings do not need to be heated. While the jars heat measure the remaining ingredients ready to use.

Make the jelly.
Measure the mint liquid into a large heavy-based pot, if there is not enough to make two cups, add enough water to the mint liquid to make two cups of liquid. Then whisk in the lime juice and powdered pectin. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking every minute or so to distribute the pectin. Once it is at a high boil (bubbling and boiling lots), add the sugar all at once, whisking well. Bring to a rolling boil (will start to bubble and foam, cannot be stirred down), keeping at a rolling boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir through the white rum and green colouring (if using). Skim foam from surface and discard foam.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars.
Ladle your hot jelly into hot half-pint jars (or whatever sized jar you want, I also did some small 4oz jars), leaving a 1/4 inch (0.5cm) headspace. Wipe rims and seal immediately. Process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. Take lid off canner and rest jars in canner for 5 more minutes before removing to a tea towel covered surface to cool overnight.

Next day: check for seal, label and store.
The next day check for a seal – the jar lid should not flex up and down when pressed. Label sealed jars and store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to 12 months. Re-process any non-sealed jars or refrigerate for immediate use.

Lamb with Mojito Jelly