Since Sheila and I were away on vacation last week—missing both the season’s first farmer’s market and first CSA delivery—our Asparagus Clock started yesterday.
Yes, the Asparagus Clock. For about seven glorious weeks each year, we binge on fresh, local asparagus. And when I say binge, I mean we probably eat it four times a week. And when I say fresh, I mean I hit up the farmstand a couple times a week, too.
With very few exceptions (this soy-mustard-egg yolk sauce is about as fancy as it gets), I keep prep simple because, well, we just freaking love asparagus. Shaved raw into a salad, roasted, grilled, tossed with pasta, folded into scrambled eggs, whirred into soup—even pickled—we can’t ever get enough.
But here’s a fancy-looking preparation that’s delicious and a snap to assemble. And because it’s just as tasty at room temperature as it is right out of the oven, it’s perfect for a brunch buffet or as a make-ahead appetizer.
Puff-Pastry Asparagus Tarts
- 1 package frozen puff pastry dough, thawed according to the box’s directions
- about 1 pound of fresh asparagus spears, rinsed
- a couple handfuls of shredded Gruyere (or Emmenthaler, Fontina, Aged Gouda, or other hard, mountain-style cheese)
- a few spoonfuls of minced or thinly sliced shallots or red onions
- flour, for the bench
- Dijon mustard, for schmearing
- olive oil, for drizzling
- salt and pepper, to taste
- optional toppers: goat-cheese crumbles, thinly sliced prosciutto, bacon bits
Preheat your oven to 400º.
Scatter a little flour on your work surface, then carefully unfold the puff pastry. Lightly flour the top of the dough, and roll it out into a large rectangle. Use a pizza cutter or pastry wheel to get clean, square edges. This is also your chance to cut the dough into smaller shapes (or leave it whole).
Move the pastry piece(s) to a lined baking sheet. For each tart, score a border about a half-inch in from each edge, all the way around, then use a fork to poke steam holes inside that border.
Bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut and wash the veggies.
Place a small dollop of mustard in the well of the baked pastry shell, and spread it around with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the onions or shallots across, then add the cheese. Arrange the asparagus spears on top. For whole-sheet tarts or longer boats, I usually line up the spears head-to-toe, in a single layer. For one- or two-bite cups, though, I’ll do smaller bias cuts and just tangle them in there. Season with salt and pepper, and top with goat cheese or ham or bacon crumbles if you want.
Return the pan to the oven for another 10-12 minutes, until the stalks are cooked through but not mushy. Serve hot or at room temperature.