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Asparagus Pie

2 c. cream
1 lg. bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
4 thin onion slices
Dash of thyme
Dash of marjoram
6 whole peppercorns
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. chopped lean ham or veal
1 lb. cooked asparagus tips
1/2 c. grated Gruyere cheese or cheese of choice
3/4 c. fine bread crumbs

Bring cream to scalding point to which has been added: bay leaf, parsley, onion slices, thyme, marjoram and whole peppercorns. Do not add salt. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter, stir in chopped lean ham or veal and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Strain the hot cream mixture and stir it in gradually, continuing to stir until the mixture begins to boil. Lower the flame and simmer very gently, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Have ready a 9 inch prebaked pastry shell and asparagus tips. Line the bottom of the pie with a layer of the asparagus tips, arrange them so the points are turned toward the center. Pour over a thin layer of the sauce, just enough barely to cover. Arrange another layer of asparagus tips, this time turning the points toward the edge of the pie shell. Blend the rest of the sauce with grated cheese and pour it over the top layer. Sprinkle over the entire surface bread crumbs. Dot with bits of butter and brown quickly under the broiler. Serve the pie very hot.