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.
3 lb. fresh asparagus
1 blade of mace or
½ teaspoon ground mace
1 bay leaf
1 shallot, sliced
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.