Asparagus Gratin and Rules of Civility

 Don't you just love coming across a new author, one who is witty, erudite, and just plain fun to read?  Rules of Civility, the very well-written debut novel of Amor Towles, hits all the high notes and then some, transporting us to the last years of the 1930's, .New York City prewar Cafe society,   Another time, and peopled with a cast of carefully drawn, singular characters, and an engaging narrative.  Highly recommended.

The book's heroine at one point determines that, being in a singular state at the time, is not going to stop her from enjoying a meal out on her birthday.  Dining alone was not usually something done by women.  Even today, it's not always an easy thing.  Assumptions are made.  She takes a taxi to a good French restaurant.

"After taking my name the maitre d' asked if I would like a glass of champagne while I waited.  It was only seven o'clock and less than half the tables were taken.  'Waiting for what?' I asked.  'Are you not meeting someone?'  'Not that I know of'.

This scenario is repeated with the waiter.  She perseveres however and orders an asparagus gratin and a glass of white wine, and for the entree, the specialty of the house: poussin stuffed with black truffle.

Now you have it. Where the urge came to make an asparagus gratin.  I've done various things with that lovely vegetable, but this was my first gratin.  Enough of a description was given to guide my selection of a recipe, and to make the appropriate adaptations.  Most had the stalks laid out whole, but I prefer eating them cut to a more reasonable size.

As luck would have it, there was some nice asparagus in the market.  Asparagus - always good - with cheese and a crunchy topping - better yet.

Asparagus Gratin
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 2” lengths
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sliced cheddar cheese (or other)
  • 1 lemon, zested
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat liner, (I skipped that) set aside.
Add asparagus to baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Place in a single layer across the baking sheet.
In a small bowl add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir to combine.
Taste and season with desired amount of kosher salt and pepper. Scatter the sliced cheese over.
Sprinkle the top of the asparagus with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 10-15 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the topped is lightly browned. You can broil the topping at the very end if you really like a browned topped.  Or, blanch the asparagus first and then just put under broiler.
Dish up and grate lemon zest over.

Just delicious, and we shared a New York steak on the side.  I'm linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.  Be sure to stop by and check out the good food.


jama said...

I love asparagus and often roast it. Might try your recipe next time for that added extra! Must look for that book -- you had me at "witty and erudite." :)

BTW, Congratulations are in order! You won the Miss Muffet giveaway at Alphabet Soup! Now you can read this wonderful picture book to your great niece and nephew. :)

Please see this post and scroll down for info about where to send your snail mail address:


Claudia said...

Thanks Jama, hurrah! Love winning a wonderful book to share with the kids.

Melynda Brown said...

That gratin looks wonderful, I am thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, it would make a great addition. Thanks for sharing.

Beth F said...

I adore asparagus -- I've never eaten it as a gratin -- usually I roast or steam it. I'm going to have to give this a try. COngrats on your win!

Carole said...

Love the title of the book - and the gratin. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Tina said...

That's a woman to be admired, and quite confident to go our alone in that era when it wasn't the norm. I'd be proud to say that's my grandma!
Asparagus is getting iffy here, I like the tender shoots but the markets have had woody varieties lately. That's nice gratin.
Glad you mentioned that book.

Vicki said...

I love asparagus! Your recipe sounds so good!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I've never made asparagus gratin either, thanks for sharing your recipe.

Simona Carini said...

The book sounds interesting: thank you for the review. And I am in with the asparagus gratin :)