Roasted Pencil Asparagus with Crunchy Parmesan Topping
- 1 thick slice good bread
- 1 small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano, about 1 ounce
- 1 1/2 pounds’ thin asparagus, more or less
- 3 tablespoons butter, extra virgin olive oil, or a combination
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat oven to 500 degrees; while it heats, put bread in, and check frequently until it is lightly toasted and dry. Coarsely grind or grate bread and cheese together (a small food processor is best), and keep crumbs larger than commercial bread crumbs.
Rinse asparagus, and break off woody bottoms. Lay stalks in a baking dish that will hold them in two or three layers. Toss with bits of butter or the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in oven.
Roast 5 minutes, then shake dish to redistribute butter or oil. Roast 5 minutes more, then test for doneness by piercing a spear with point of a sharp knife; it should slide in but meet a little resistance. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made as much as two hours before serving; just leave asparagus at room temperature).
Turn on broiler and place rack as close as possible to heating element. Top asparagus with cheese-crumb mixture and run under broiler to brown, a minute or two. Serve hot or at room temperature.