Even though I love oven-roasted asparagus year-round, something about spring makes me want asparagus even more. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. At a recent cooking class at the Shoals Culinary Complex in Florence, Alabama ( http://www.shoalsec.com), director Sherry Campbell taught us how to make this gorgeously easy and delicious Asparagus Terrine. One of those impressive dishes that always gets you compliments, it’s perfect for spring luncheons celebrating weddings, graduations, Easter and Mother’s Day. And, surprisingly, it’s great to make ahead and also is conveniently totable for covered-dish get-togethers. Sherry says to look for asparagus with plump, closed tips for freshness. She uses most of the whole stalks, too, but I don’t like that slightly woody flavor and trim mine pretty closely. But then I don’t like broccoli stems, either, so what do I know?
Asparagus Frittata Terrine
Peel and finely dice 1 medium onion and saute over medium-low in 1 T. olive oil until translucent. Add 1 T. sugar, increase heat to medium-high and stir until lightly colored. Add 3 peeled and minced garlic cloves and 1 T. white-wine vinegar and boil until vinegar is evaporated, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and cool to room temperature.
Trim white ends off 2 pounds asparagus spears and microwave until slightly cooked.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line small loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting excess hang over sides. Trim asparagus if longer than pan and save ends. Place single layer in bottom of pan, alternating tips and ends and filling in with trimmings. Spoon over half cooked onions and add layer of cooked bacon or 40-42-count shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and add freshly minced tarragon, dill or mint. Continue layering, sprinkling herbs on top.
Whisk 6 eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper until well-blended. Pour into loaf pan, moving a knife between asparagus spears and lightly tapping pan on work surface to evenly distribute. Fold excess plastic over, cover with tin foil and place in hot-water bath. Bake until eggs are set, 50-60 minutes. Remove from bath.
To serve warm, let settle 15 minutes then run knift around rim and unmold and slice 1/4-inch thick. To serve at room temperature, let cool and then unmold and slice or prepare ahead, refrigerate and then bring to room temperature before serving. Serve with Tarragon Sauce: Whisk 1 T. each mayonnaise and Dijon mustard and add 1 T. white-wine vinegar. Pour in 3/4 cup olive oil in slow, thin stream while whisking. Mix in 1 T. freshly minced tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Can make ahead and refrigerate before using.