I know what you're thinking: The first asparagus of the year—the asparagus you've been waiting for all winter, the only delicate green thing to enter your kitchen in months—and you opt for a Dijon-mayonnaise-breadcrumb coating?
Well, before you accuse me of compromising the integrity of our asparagus—of crudely defiling their bright spring flavor—a few points in my defense:
First, these weren't the slender, delicate spears of asparagus I usually seek out (and which perform best sans accoutrement). This was thick, big-boned asparagus. I thought: why not take advantage of that structural integrity?
Second, there was some question as to the origins of the asparagus, which was advertised as "Local" but sporting commercial tags. Asparagus with such dubious pedigree does not require a pedestal.
Third, I thought it would be a fitting (if slightly more sophisticated) homage to the mayonnaise-draped asparagus of my youth.
And last, well, I thought it sounded tasty.
Did I mention the Dijon-mayonnaise-breadcrumb coating? It delivered, in all the ways one might expect, and in other ways as well. Because the best thing about these asparagus is that they tasted like asparagus.
Roasted Asparagus with Panko Breadcrumbs
Adapted from The Way We Cook, by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven
I took it easy on the Dijon-mayonnaise mixture, applying just enough to provide adherence for the breadcrumbs.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 pound thick asparagus spears, tough ends removed (I also shaved down the stalks to remove some of the woody bits)
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet, or line with parchment.
In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. [Pie plates are good for this use.] Spread the panko crumbs in another shallow bowl or pan.
Roll the asparagus spears in the mustard mixture, then in the panko crumbs. Place the asparagus on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. [The asparagus can be covered and refrigerated for several hours until roasting.]
Roast for about 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. The crumbs should turn a golden brown. Sprinkle with salt (or another squeeze of lemon juice) and serve immediately.