I think this dish is Spring on a plate. Not just because it features lovely Spring asparagus, but for the combination of the bright green asparagus and the vivid yellow sauce. So pretty together. And I’m pleased to tell you it tastes as good as it looks!
If you’re still looking for a little something special for your Easter brunch, I think this would be a great option. It’s simple to put together and made with simple ingredients, but looks and tastes like so much more. Beyond Easter, if you’re looking for a great way to use seasonal asparagus for a nice lunch or a light supper, This would be great paired with a salad or a small bowl of roasted tomato soup (of some roasted tomatoes).
As for some details on this lovely dish, I’ll start with the cheese. I think Fontina is pretty easy to find these days. I know it’s easily found in my small town now, so I figure that means it must be just about everywhere. If you can’t find it though, Swiss or Emmental would be a good substitution. Look for a great loaf of crusty bread. It can be round or oblong, but look for one that has great flavour and is about 7 or 8 inches wide, when cut.
The sauce is not difficult to make, but because of the egg yolks, it does need a little care in heating and especially re-heating. If it is over-heated, it will break in a bad scrambled egg kind of way. It’s best served right away, but if you need to re-warm, do so gently with the same double-boiler set-up you used to cook it.
If you’re looking to make ahead, I would suggest that you could trim and wrap the asparagus ahead and make the sauce ahead (heeding the warning to re-warm it gently). To serve, just roast the asparagus and toast the bread while the sauce re-warms. Speaking of asparagus, I used 3 spears, but I think 5 would have worked nicely as well, especially if eating for a light supper instead of an appetizer.
Thanks to my daughter for being the hand model for this shot. What? You thought that was my hand sporting the navy blue nail polish? I’m not nearly that cool ;)
Asparagus and Prosciutto Crostini with Fontina Cheese Sauce
This dish is perfect as an appetizer, for Sunday brunch or for a light supper. Best when asparagus is seasonal and fresh, in the Spring. If you can’t find Fontina, Swiss or Emmental would be a good substitute. Be careful with re-heating the sauce. Be sure to do it low and slow, or it will break.
- Cheese Sauce:
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 oz. Fontina cheese, rind discarded, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large egg yolks
- For crostini:
- 4-6 slices from a large crusty loaf of bread (about 7-8 inches wide), cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 4-6 slices prosciutto
- 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed. (3-5 spears per crostini)
- Melt butter in a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add Fontina and milk and heat, stirring with a whisk, until cheese begins to melt. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until smooth and slightly thickened, about 7 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and the remove the bowl from pan. Continue to stir the sauce for about a minute while water in pan cools slightly. Return bowl to pan to keep sauce warm over the hot water (but off the heat), whisking occasionally to prevent a skin forming on the surface of the sauce.
- Preheat oven to 450° F. Wrap trimmed asparagus spears in a piece of prosciutto, around the middle. Place on a baking sheet and roast in pre-heated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven. Meanwhile, slice bread and lay on another baking sheet. Once asparagus is removed from the oven, place a rack about 3-inches from the broiler and switch oven to Broil. Toast bread about 3 inches from heat, turning, until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
- While bread is toasting, add chopped garlic to olive oil and set aside. Once the toast is done, remove from oven and brush top with oil. Top each crostini with asparagus/prosciutto and pour cheese sauce over to serve.
- Top with some freshly ground pepper, if desired. (The prosciutto is fairly salty, so additional salt probably isn’t necessary).
Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 30 min
Number of servings (yield): 4-6 (4 as a main or 6 as an appetizer)
Adapted from Gourmet April 1995