Recipe and photo by Christian Reynoso
This recipe is inspired by that moment in late spring when you’ve eaten all the crunchy raw asparagus salads you can handle, you’re bored with roasting giant spears, but you’re still feeling drawn to the bunches of asparagus at the market. The weather is not quite hot yet, and you want to have one big comforting spring blowout of a meal. It’s a dish you can bring to your spring block party.
I call for using spring onions (also called young onions), which are not the same as the scallions you find available year-round. Spring onions are bulb onions that are harvested when the bulb is still small.
The Meyer lemon adds a fruity brightness to this rich dish, so you won’t be left feeling too full. And while this gratin, like the classic potato version, uses cream and butter to cloak vegetables, you could use vegetable stock and olive oil instead and still create something equally delicious.
The gratin fits into a 7- by 11-inch pan, but if you happen to have cute individual baking dishes, you might divide the mixture equally among them and then shorten the baking time by 2 to 3 minutes.
A bright acidic salad of watercress or arugula is an ideal sidekick for this dish.
Yield: 4 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
3 whole spring onions, green stalks trimmed off
1 bunch asparagus spears, small to medium sized
1 whole Meyer lemon, divided
2 ounces Comté or other Alpine-style cheese
Preheat oven to 400°.
Heat the butter, heavy cream, salt, and black pepper to a light simmer in a small sauce pot. Once hot, add the marjoram. Stir to make sure the salt has dissolved, then turn off the heat.
With a sharp knife, slice the spring onions into rounds and place in a bowl, using your hands to lightly massage to separate the rings.
Cut off the thick fibrous ends of the asparagus, then cut each spear on a bias into 3 thinner spears. Toss those in the bowl with the onion rings.
Slice half of the Meyer lemon into rounds, then chop the slices into pearl-sized pieces and add to the bowl. Pour the warmed cream mixture into the bowl and toss everything to coat evenly. The onions should be entangled with the asparagus spears.
Place the gratin mixture in a 7- by 11-inch (2-inch-deep) baking pan and finely grate the Comté cheese evenly over the top. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, rotating the pan at the halfway point.
Once done baking, let cool for 2 to 3 minutes and serve. You can use the other half of the lemon to make a simple dressing with olive oil to serve alongside.
Freelance recipe developer Christian Reynoso is a native of Sonoma Valley, where he spent his early years at his parents’ restaurant. He is now a sous chef at San Francisco’s mainstay restaurant and temple to seasonal California cooking, Zuni Café. He loves puppies and skateboarding, too. For his latest food adventures check out @christiandreynoso on Instagram or christianreynoso.com.