Sunday, November 22, 2015

Asparagus and Ham Roulades with Brandy Cheddar Crème

     A Nice Vegetable Item For A Banquet Or Holiday Dinner! 
     Every once in a while, I post a recipe that has become lost in the past.  Today's asparagus spear roulade was a popular item at yacht clubs and country clubs many years ago.  We used to prepare ham wrapped asparagus roulades with a variety of cheese sauces.  Cheddar cheese sauces seem to be the best choice and a splash of brandy adds an elegant touch.
     The holiday season is here and there are a few directions that most folks go when planning Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for themselves and guests.  During the last few decades, dining out has become a worthy option.  Dining out means not having to clean up the kitchen after the meal is done.  Another option is to prepare a gourmet holiday dinner at home or to hire a private chef to do all the fancy cooking.  By far, the most popular option is a good old fashioned classic holiday dinner that is composed of old family recipes that have been handed down for many generations.
    When planning a holiday dinner for family and guests, many folks like to introduce a few new food items along with the old family recipes.  Some folks attempt to go off the scale on the gourmet side and often the cooking idea loses something in the translation.  
     A better alternative for folks that do not attempt to cook fancy gourmet food on a regular basis is to perfect something simple.  This is where today's asparagus recipe fits in.  Ham wrapped asparagus spears are easy to make.  Making a good brandied cheese sauce is not all too difficult either.  The end result is a holiday dinner side dish that is a real crowd pleaser!    
     Brandy Cheddar Crème:   
     This recipe yields a little more than 1 cup.  (Enough for 3 to 4 asparagus and ham roulades.)  
     The mother sauce for this recipe is béchamel.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to make a roux.  (The roux should be shiny and not caky looking.)
     Constantly stir till the roux become a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1/4 cup of brandy.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very soupy consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoon of chopped onion.  
     Add 1 spice clove.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg. 
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce till it is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese, while gently stirring.  (The better the cheddar, the better the sauce!)
     Stir till the cheese combines with the sauce.  (The cheese will thicken the sauce to a medium thin consistency that easily clings to a spoon.
     Step 6:  Add 1 tablespoon of brandy to refresh the flavor.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter, while gently whisking.  (monte au beurre)
     Step 7:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot or ceramic sauce container.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or keep the sauce warm in a 135ºF bain marie.  Stir occasionally.

     Asparagus and Ham Roulades:
     About 18 thin asparagus spears are needed for making 2 roulades.  Pencil thin asparagus spears do not have to be peeled.  
     If you use larger asparagus spears, they will have to be peeled and you will have to judge how many asparagus spears will be needed for each roulade.  
     Each asparagus and ham roulade should be about a 1 1/2" in diameter.
     Step 1:  Select a nice roasted ham at a delicatessen and request whole undamaged slices that are about 1/32" thick.  (One slice of ham is needed per roulade.)  
     Step 2:  Boil a pot of salted water.
     Blanch about 18 pencil asparagus spears for about 15 to 20 seconds, so they are still fairly crisp.  (Thin asparagus spears cook quickly!)
     Step 3:  Use a fryer net to remove the spears from the hot water.
     Shock the asparagus spears in ice water.
     Step 4:  Remove the asparagus from the ice water and place them on a cutting board.
     Trim the asparagus spears, so they are about 7" in length.
     Step 5:  Trim the width of 2 slices of ham, so each ham slice is as wide as the stalks of the asparagus spears.  The asparagus tips should be exposed when the spears are wrapped.
     Step 6:  Place the 2 ham slices on a counter top.  
     Place about 9 pencil asparagus spears across the end of each ham slice.
     Tightly roll the ham and asparagus together to form roulades.
     Step 7:  Brush a baking pan with unsalted butter.
     Place the roulades on the baking pan with the seam side facing down.
     Brush the ham and the exposed asparagus tips with melted butter.
     Step 8:  Bake in a 325ºF oven, till the ham gains a little bit of golden color and till the asparagus spears become hot.  (Be careful not to bake the roulades for too much time, or the asparagus tips will dry out!) 
     Keep the asparagus and ham roulades warm on a stove top.

     Asparagus and Ham Roulades with Brandy Cheddar Crème:  
     Place the roulades of asparagus on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the brandy cheddar crème sauce over the ham and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Brandy accents the flavor of sharp cheddar cheese.  This is a nice tasting old fashioned vegetable side dish!

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