You can simply cook asparagus in cream to make creamed asparagus, which is, technically, all that the creaming method requires. Instead, take it a step further and cook the asparagus in a cream-sauce variation to add personality and a touch of finesse. For the toast, think hearty and rustic — only a thick-sliced, crusty French bread or a peasant-style loaf will do the dish justice. You can serve the asparagus whole or chopped, according to preference.
Asparagus Variety and Prep
Green asparagus is typically the first choice for creamed preparations, firstly, because white sauce obscures white asparagus and, secondly, because they’re more expensive than green. You can, of course, use white asparagus, and prepare them for cooking in the same manner as green.
Rinse about 1/2 pound of asparagus per serving. Snap each asparagus spear; they naturally split apart where the tough portion meets the tender portion. Peel the thin skins using a peeler — from just under the tips to the bottom — and blanch the spears in boiling water for 30 seconds. After blanching, rinse the asparagus under cold water until they cool.
Cream Sauce Variations
There are a few types of cream sauce. The old French, in which cream was used liberally as a sauce base; veloute, which comprises stock finished with cream; and bechamel, which has supplanted, in most instances, the old French. Each type is an option, but veloute is the best choice for two reasons. First, cooking the asparagus in veloute imparts more flavor than cooking it in cream or milk, and second, it’s the lightest sauce of the three.
Cook 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour until blond in a saucepan over medium-low heat for each pound of asparagus. Add 1 cup of stock per pound and simmer until thickened. Add the asparagus and cook to al dente. Set the asparagus aside.
It’s tough to top an egg in any role in any preparation, including this one. A sliced hard-boiled egg or two on top or to the side of creamed asparagus on toast is a thing of beauty — so keep it simple and keep the egg. But don’t hesitate to add freshly chopped herbs to the veloute. Parsley and thyme stirred into the sauce at the finish adds a necessary aromatic element to the dish.
You need a thick, crusty bread that can absorb the creamy sauce without turning to mush, and white sandwich bread won’t cut it. Slice a crusty loaf of bread into 1-inch slices. Dry toast the slices in a saute pan over medium-low heat or in a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven.
Putting It Together
Heat the sauce over medium-low heat and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cream per cup. Add freshly chopped herbs and season the sauce to taste. Add the asparagus to the sauce. Arrange the toast on the plate about 1/2 inch apart. Place a few asparagus spears on each slice of toast. Spoon sauce over the spears, covering the entire top of the toast as you do. Slice 1 egg for each piece of toast and arrange the slices to the side of the asparagus.