Is Mark Bittman a Beautiful Man? You bet. Let’s see, he’s middle-aged and bald. As a mid-lifer myself, I tend to be lenient on the first point. On the second point, I am willing to cut him some slack. Any man who advocates for healthy, locavore, compassionate, and delicious food holds my interest. A man who writes the Bible on vegetarian cooking is Highly Interesting. And a man who provides an utterly ravishing recipe for asparagus au gratin is definitely Worthy of the Title.
Plus, he’s cute and has great hands.
Asparagus au gratin is not a complicated recipe. But it’s easy to forget how delicious the basics are. There is a reason that French cooking has the status it does. Simple techniques, great ingredients, and attention to detail make for an earthy, sensuous experience.
I made this gratin with a pound of asparagus, a basic mornay sauce, bread crumbs and a mix of three grated cheeses (leftover swiss, bellavitano, and sharp cheddar). It spent enough time under the broiler to develop a crispy, savory, cheesy crust. The top is garnished with a touch of paprika and some minced parsley.
We drank this with the perfect complement, a very citrus-laced Sauv Blanc from Chateau St. Michelle. The grapes are from Horse Heaven Hills, beside the Columbia River in Washington state, one of my favorite viniferous regions.
The astringent grapefruit in this wine cut pleasingly through the richness of the creamy sauce and complemented the savory browned cheese on top.
I always read Bittman’s columns in the NYT. And I’m never disappointed. When he gives you the recipe for béchamel eleven ways, it’s like the Kama Sutra.