Asparagus au Gratin

Asparagus au Gratin (oh GRAH-tanJ may be served as a first course or as a vegetable dish with the main course for lunch or dinner. It goes well served with chicken breasts, veal escalopes, brains, sweetbreads and egg dishes.

4 SERVINGS

3 lb. fresh asparagus

1 blade of mace or

½ teaspoon ground mace

1 bay leaf

1 shallot, sliced

5 peppercorns

10 fl. oz. milk

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoons flour

1 ½ oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

2 tablespoons single cream

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

½ teaspoon salt grindings fresh pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Put the mace, bay leaf, peppercorns, shallot and the milk in a medium-sized saucepan. Place on low heat and allow to simmer very gently for 8 minutes.

Prepare the asparagus and cook until tender.

In a heavy, medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and with a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.

Pour the milk through a strainer, a little at a time, into the butter-and-flour mixture and continue stirring over moderate heat. When all the milk has been stirred in, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the Gruyere cheese, cream, mustard, salt and pepper.

Arrange the cooked asparagus in a fireproof serving dish. Pour the hot sauce over the asparagus. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and brown under a moderate grill , or until the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

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