Cream, butter, bread crumbs, and cheese make this asparagus casserole a deliciously decadent side dish. This recipe was given to us by Margaret Barstow, who got it from a friend's 89-year-old grandmother. The recipe appeared alongside David Nussbaum's piece, "Hadley Grass" (April 2001), about asparagus farming in Massachusetts.
- 2 lb. asparagus
- 6 tbsp. butter
- 4 tbsp. flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1–2 pinches paprika
- 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups fresh bread cubes
- 1 cup coarsely crumbled Cabaret or Ritz crackers
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare asparagus by holding bottom half of each spear with both hands and gently bending it until it snaps where it naturally breaks, separating tough fibrous end from tender part, see Prepping Asparagus. Discard ends. Cut asparagus into pieces, add to pot, and cook until soft, 4-6 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain asparagus.
Melt 4 tbsp. of the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in reserved cooking water, then the cream, stirring until smooth and thick, 8-10 minutes. Add paprika, then season to taste with salt. Layer asparagus, eggs, and sauce alternately in a medium baking dish, ending with sauce. Sprinkle with bread cubes, cracker crumbs, and parmigiano. Dot with remaining 2 tbsp. butter. Bake until bubbling and golden, 25-30 minutes.