Old-fashioned Scalloped Asparagus

HAPPY EASTER!

Nothing says Spring like asparagus (or a refrigerator filled with rainbow-colored hard-boiled eggs). So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe that called for both asparagus and chopped hard-boiled eggs.

The Scalloped Asparagus turned out wonderfully. This classic dish was tasty, and made a lovely presentation with bits of asparagus and egg poking through the browned bread crumb and cheese topping.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

And, here’s the updated recipe for modern cooks:

Scalloped Asparagus

  • Servings: 4 - 5 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 bunch asparagus (approximately 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 1/4 cup milk

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 cup fine bread crumbs

6 tablespoons grated or shredded cheese (I used Parmesan cheese.)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Boil or steam asparagus until tender (2-3 minutes). 

Meantime in another saucepan, melt butter. Stir the flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil using medium heat. Remove the white sauce from heat.

Put 1/3 of the cooked asparagus in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Add a layer with 1/3 of the chopped eggs,  a layer of white sauce, a layer of bread crumbs, and a layer of 2 tablespoons cheese; continue layering with the final two layers being bread crumbs and cheese.

Bake for 1/2 hour or until the dish is hot and bubbly and the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve.

Hundred-Year-Old Asparagus Shortcake Recipe

Usually when I browse through hundred-year-old cookbooks searching for a recipe to make, I skip over the ones that seem particularly odd or strange.  However, I recently read a quote that made me give some of these recipes a second look:

Recipes that a century ago would have been the apogee of culinary chic may no longer be prepared because they are no longer in vogue; they may be considered unappealing, outdated, or unhealthful.

Janet Theophano
(Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote, 2002)

So  when I saw a colorful illustration for Asparagus Shortcake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the KC Baking Powder Company, my curiosity was piqued. Was Asparagus Shortcake an example of a food that once had been at the “apogee of culinary chic”?

Source: The Cook’s Book (KC Baking Powder Cook Book) (1911)

When I made this recipe, I worried that my husband and I won’t like it, so I only made half a recipe so that I won’t have too much left-over.

The verdict: Asparagus Shortcake gets high marks for the “wow” factor when served.  And, while the combination of asparagus and shortcake seemed a bit odd, the dish was tasty. The asparagus in its rich butter sauce worked well with the shortcake. Overall,  Asparagus Shortcake made a satisfying lunch.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Asparagus Shortcake

  • Servings: 2 - 3
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch piece

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 hard-boiled egg, quartered

Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and lightly flour a 6-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/4 cups  flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening; then add the milk. Stir gently with a fork to create a dough. Place on a pastry cloth or other prepared surface, and gently knead for 15 seconds; then shape into a 6-inch round disc and place in the prepared baking pan. Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is light brown.

In the meantime,  put the asparagus pieces in a saucepan and add water. Using high heat bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain (reserve liquid).

In another saucepan, melt two tablespoons butter using medium heat, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the asparagus liquid while stirring constantly; continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter, then gently fold the cooked asparagus into the sauce.

To assemble the shortcake, split the baked shortcake. Place the bottom half of the shortcake on the serving dish and then spread with half of the asparagus sauce. Cover with the top of the shortcake and spread with the remaining sauce. Garnish with hard-boiled egg quarters. Serve immediately.

Hundred-Year-Old Fried Asparagus Recipe

Fried AsparagusI’ve eaten Fried Asparagus several times in the past year as an appetizer. I was surprised when I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old church cookbook for Fried Asparagus. It apparently has been around for a long time.

The crisp lightly-browned breading on the asparagus creates an enchanting appetizer or side dish.

The original recipe says, “This is nice and easy to prepare.” I concur. This is a fun and easy recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Asparagus

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pound asparagus

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

shortening or oil

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile wash and trim the asparagus spears,  then blanch them by  adding to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente. Remove the asparagus from the water and immediately put the spears in ice water to stop the cooking.

Prepare a batter by combining the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat until combined. Roll the blanched asparagus in the breading batter.

Heat 1/2 inch of shortening or oil in a large frying pan. Carefully place the breaded asparagus spears in the pan in a single layer. Depending upon pan size, the spears may need to be cooked in several batches. Fry for about a minute or until the bottom side of the asparagus is lightly browned, then gently turn and fry until the other side is browned. Remove from pan and drain the asparagus on paper towels. Serve immediately.

And, here is the original recipe:

Fried Asparagus Recipe 2
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, compiled and published by the Willing Workers of the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

The original recipe is lacking in details. It tells the cook to dip the asparagus in batter, but fails to tell them how to prepare the batter. Apparently the recipe author assumed that every cook already knew how to prepare batter. Since I didn’t know how off the top of my head, I decided to adapt an old recipe that I’d previously used to make fritters to make a batter that would work with the asparagus.

Old-Time Asparagus Omelet Recipe

asparagus omelet h

I have a short list of brunch dishes that I regularly make. I recently found a recipe in a hundred-year-old issue of Good Housekeeping  for Asparagus Omelet that I’m adding to my repertoire of go-to brunch recipes. It makes a stunning presentation, and has a wonderful texture and taste.

Often omelets are a little heavy, but Asparagus Omelet is not like the typical modern omelet. The recipe calls for beating egg whites into stiff peaks, and then folding the remainder of the ingredients into them.  This omelet incredibly light and airy with embedded pieces of asparagus.

The omelet was so thick that I didn’t even try to fold it over like the typical omelet, and instead just turned the unfolded omelet onto a plate (actually I turned it onto a baking sheet) and cut into wedges.

Asparagus Omelet d

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Asparagus Omelet

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 cup milk

6 eggs, separated

3/4 cup cooked  asparagus (1-inch pieces)

cooked asparagus tips for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350° F. Make a white sauce by melting the butter in small saucepan, then stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Add a small amount of milk and make a paste. Gradually add remaining milk while stirring rapidly and continuing to heat. Continue stirring until thickens. Then remove from heat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until lemon colored. Stir in the white sauce and asparagus pieces; then fold into the beaten egg whites.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the top of the stove using medium-low heat. (If needed to prevent sticking, liberally grease the skillet before heating.) Pour the egg and asparagus mixture into the hot skillet, and gently cook for 1 minute. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.

Remove from oven, and loosen the edges of the omelet from the skillet with a knife or spatula, then turn onto a plate. Garnish with asparagus tips and cut into wedges.

Asparagus Omelet e

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 12, 1913:  No important events to record.

DSC07479

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Did Grandma do any “unimportant” things a hundred years ago today? Did she help her mother with the cooking? If so, did they eat asparagus or any other fresh, seasonal vegetables?

Yesterday I bought some asparagus at the store. It was good, but not as tasty as the wild asparagus that I remember finding in fence rows when I was a small child.

We often only found a few tender shoots, and to make the delicacy go further, we’d cream it and serve it on toast.

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk

toast

Put asparagus into small saucepan; cover with water; bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. In a frying pan, melt butter. Stir the flour into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. If mixture is too thick, add a little more milk. Gently add the asparagus and bring back to a boil; remove from heat. Serve over toast.

Yield: 3 – 4 servings

An aside—Does anyone remember the book by Euell Gibbons called Stalking the Wild Asparagus? The author lived in central Pennsylvania when I was a teen, and— though I never met him—it seemed exciting to have a minor celebrity living in the general area.