2000s Recipes + Menus

Asparagus with Cream Sauce

  • Active Time:35 min
  • Start to Finish:35 min
January 2008
Here, a velvety sauce studded with salty nuggets of country ham strengthens, rather than hides, the meaty savor of asparagus. But what we particularly love about this dish is the toast, made from a sturdy white sandwich loaf, one from a bakery (not from the packaged-bread aisle at the supermarket), the kind of bread that doesn't disintegrate under an extravagant topping but instead turns succulent.
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices good-quality white bread such as pullman loaf, crusts discarded
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cooked slices Virginia country ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • Steam asparagus in a steamer rack over boiling water, covered, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
  • Put broiler pan (with unlined rack) in broiler and preheat broiler 5 minutes.
  • Generously butter bread slices on 1 side, then halve diagonally. Arrange bread, buttered sides up, on rack of hot broiler pan and broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until golden-brown in some spots and undersides are toasted, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully).
  • Briskly simmer cream, ham, garlic, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and is reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 3 minutes. (If necessary, keep warm, covered.)
  • Arrange asparagus on toast, then stir sauce and spoon over asparagus.
Cooks' notes: Virginia country ham is available at some specialty foods shops and virginatraditions.com.
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