Move over green bean casserole!
I don’t come from a green bean casserole family. I have no recollection of my Mom ever serving it, and I know, for a fact, that I’ve never made one. Which, considering I really like green beans, is rather interesting. Hmm, I’m thinking I see a green bean casserole in my near future but not today!
Today, I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite holiday side dishes made with another less popular holiday veggie – asparagus. However, my family won’t eat these nutritious green stalks unless they are wrapped in bacon. After all, bacon makes everything better!! (Check out my bacon hacks post.)
Bacon-wrapped asparagus isn’t new at my house. I serve it a lot (check out my go-to weeknight recipe). What makes this dish holiday-special is the creamy, luscious white cheese sauce and a sprinkle of crispy fried onions. It looks so beautiful on a platter! It’s colorful, festive, and elegant. But, the best part is how easy it is to make!
Prepare the asparagus as usual by trimming off the white ends and cutting the spears into uniform sizes. Bundle the spears in groups of three. A pound of asparagus typically contains about 24 stalks which makes eight bundles.
Roasting the asparagus
Wrap each bundle with a slice of bacon and place on a foil or parchment paper-lined baking pan. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for about 25 minutes until the bacon is cooked.
Quick and easy cheese sauce
In the meantime, make the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the flour and stir; it will only take about a minute for the mixture to turn golden brown and develop a nutty aroma. That’s when you add the seasonings and slowly whisk in the milk. Don’t freak out if it gets all lumpy at first. That’s what it does. Keep whisking or stirring, and it will smooth out (promise!) It takes about 2-3 minutes for the sauce to thicken to the right consistency.
This sauce is very forgiving. If it gets too thick, add in a little more half & half or milk. If it’s too runny, and it a little more flour. It’s almost a goof-proof sauce. (Honestly, though, I’ve never needed to do either – it always turns out right if I follow the recipe.) When it reaches the desired consistency, stir in the cheese until melted and remove the pan from the head.
Bringing it together
Gruyere cheese is a little pricey and hard to find (in my grocery store), but it’s worth it for the holidays. It melts beautifully, and the taste is amazing. That said, I’ve also made this with Havarti, Asiago, Gouda, and Cheddar cheese. While the sauce will have a slightly different flavor, it’s still fabulous. If the sauce cools down too much before using it, stick it back on the burner over low heat for a couple of minutes.
Transfer the roasted asparagus bundles to a serving platter and pour the sauce over the bundles. Sprinkle with French fried onions. These crispy, tasty fried bits on onion make the entire dish come to life! Trust me on this. Enjoy!
There will be left-over sauce. Use a dollop over any steamed or nuked veggies. Zhoosh up scrambled eggs or an omelet for a gourmet breakfast. This sauce will transform any egg or veggie dish into something fabulous!
Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus with Cheese SauceCourse: Side DishCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Roasted bacon-wrapped asparagus gets decked out for the holidays with an easy & delicious cheese.
1lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
8 slices bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated/shredded Gruyere
1/2 cup crispy fried onions
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Remove the ends of the asparagus (where the green meets the white) and trim to a uniform size.
- Divide the asparagus spears into 8 bundles of three. Wrap each bundle with one piece of bacon. Place the bundles seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake until the bacon is fully cooked, about 25 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and stir. Cook until the mixture is golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 1 minute. Stir in the mustard powder, onion powder, nutmeg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time and continue cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese until melted, then take off the heat.
- Transfer the bacon bundles to a serving platter. Pour the cheese sauce over the asparagus and sprinkle with the fried onions. Serve warm.
- Gruyere Cheese: Substitute Havarti, Asiago, Gouda or Cheddar
- Half & Half: Milk can be substituted.
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