Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rhu-sparagus: A season of plenty

We got off to a rough start this morning, losing the first few rounds in an epic battle of car seat vs. two college graduates... Car seats are highly technical. 

But the day went uphill from there: I bought my first bunch of spring asparagus at a real, live outdoor market. While Alex entertained our ever-patient charge at the zoo’s tractor (Alex: “Do you want to climb up and drive?” Luc: “No, but I’ll watch you if you want to.”), I snuck off to my first open-air market trip of the year.
How long I’ve been waiting to stand on spongy green earth and see the tents waving in the breeze, the stands filled with an abundance of rhubarb, asparagus... and not much else. Last year the sight of these two vegetables at every table put me off the greenmarket. How were we supposed to eat only local food if these were the foods available? Where were the berries and tomatoes I had been promised? This year, I’m prepared to wait for the flashier fruits and veg and excited to take a different approach to the proliferance of rhu-sparagus.  
Unfortunately, we’re going out of town this week and leaving no perishable item unturned, so I limited my “spree” to one bunch of asparagus. 
One bunch! Out of all the possible asparagus-themed dishes, I had to choose but one to kick off my spring fever. Old grail knight be damned, I chose wisely.
Phyllo-wrapped asparagus and Brie. Is it French? Is it Greek? Does it matter? No. It doesn’t. Let’s use adjectives: Fresh, flavorful asparagus; melted, creamy brie; and crispy, flaky phyllo dough. Oh how fantastic.
These buttery spears are fancy and light, despite their crumbly texture and rich filling. I would stay up all night the night before an all-night telethon making these.

Phyllo-wrapped asparagus and Brie

5 to 6 sheets of defrosted Phyllo dough
16 to 20 short spears of asparagus (I snapped the stalks and kept the ends for salad)
3-ish ounces of Brie
1/8 cup grated pecorino
½ a stick of unsalted butter, melted
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water.  When the water is boiling, salt the water and add the asparagus. Boil for two minutes, then plunge the stalks directly into the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Dry in a dish towel.

(It is important to either work quickly with the Phyllo dough or cover it with a damp cloth. I risked it and the final sheet was noticeably dry and cracked as I worked with it.) Lay out one sheet of Phyllo dough and brush with melted butter (fingers are the new a pastry brush). Fold in half, and brush with butter again. Fold one more time, then repeat with the other Phyllo sheets. Cut each buttered, folded sheet into thirds to make layered strips.

Sprinkle each dough strip with pecorino. Lay a slice of brie and a blanched asparagus spear on one end. Roll the filling up in the dough so the tip of the spear sticks out of one end. Repeat.

Brush the rolls with butter, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and ground pepper. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Burn your tongue.


  1. Those look so delicious. Oh, you're going out of town this week? I wonder where..

  2. Hanna, will you make these for me when you come back? I know they're highly technical but you have the genes for it.