Lovely thin shoots of asparagus are a fleeting thing and should be snatched up as soon as they appear in the market. Like all youth, it is blink and you miss it, turn your head for a moment and you are left with thick, stocky, stringy vegetables. Middle-age is cruel to plant and animal alike.
This is a dish best left to the young. The spears take on an unbelievable texture from being essentially oven-fried in butter. Crispy skin gives way to a melting interior and the cheese pulls everything together. They make a great accompaniment to all manner of roasted meats, and fish as well.
- Asparagus, the thinnest spears you can find, aim for 5-6 spears per person (or more).
- Unsalted butter, cold
- Parmesan cheese, fresh (not pre-grated)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oven to 175°C (350°F). I think these go extremely well with roasted meats, so your oven will probably already be on.
- Spread the spears out in a line (like soldiers) on a baking try lined with foil. With a vegetable peeler, peel thin ribbons of cold butter and place evenly on top of the spears – be generous! Grate fresh parmesan all over the top and season with salt and pepper if desired.
- If you are serving these with a roast you can put them in when it comes out, which will give the meat time to rest. Bake for 10 minutes, then put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes more.