So, hopefully, by the time this post is released, the summer season will finally be upon us. Presently, it is snowing outside as I write this; my animals are confused, and my poor lilacs took a serious beating—ahhhh, nothin’ like a good old Colorado seasonal slip-up….
Now, where was I? Oh yes, dreams of warmth and sunshine and lighthearted, unrushed, no-school days. And all those fun, impromptu dinner get-togethers that seem to arise when the summer vibe is strong, and relaxed spontaneity is in full force.
One of the best parts about carefree dinner parties is the carefree part. Most of the time, this means me throwing a few veggies on the grill with some protein; toss a salad for the side, and we’re good to go. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to do a little something extra special. Yet, special and carefree don’t often collaborate well. Much of the time, special also comes with hassles and headaches, or at the very least, work.
And no one likes work when there’s fun to be had.
Wrapping delicious stuff in other delicious stuff is one of the simplest, and most deceptive, ways to pretend you actually spent a lot of time and energy slaving away in the kitchen.
In other words: it looks like work, but it’s not.
Prosciutto is my all-time favorite wrapping medium. It holds a subtle flavor that doesn’t overpower (like another favorite, bacon), and a little goes a long way. It also has a bit of stretch and natural adhesive to it, making it perfect for tightly binding bundles of happy, scrumptious fillings and keeping everything snug and in its place.
Nothing wrong with plain, old prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, in my books, even if it is a little overplayed. But I say, why not take it one step further—add a little extra oomph to the occasion? For these delectable concoctions, I used what I had on hand: a creamy, mild bleu and some apricot preserves, and the combination wound up being even more delicious than I anticipated. As many of you readers know, I’m a big fan of contrasting flavors and textures, and these little asparagus bundles bestow bites of sweet, salty, and tart.
This is a side dish that looks and tastes fancy without much work. Yes, they are suited for a casual, impromptu dinner, but they would be an ideal accompaniment to a more intentional, prearranged occasion. Oh, yeah, and did I mention they can also be made ahead? Bonus! With Father’s Day and wedding season ahead of us, I cannot think of a better time to add them to your menu, especially while the asparagus is still at its prime.
As the months progress, try these with other seasonal veggies, like long, slender green beans. And don’t be afraid to use your imagination, as this same basic principle would be delicious with any filling combo you like. If sweets aren’t your thing, just eliminate the apricot preserves. I tried them both ways, with apricot and without, and I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite. The biggest bonus of these was that the cheese melted into velvety goodness, and anything that seeped out of the prosciutto wrapper crisped up around the edges, creating a layer of flavor and textural contrast I hadn’t anticipated. And for this very reason, I’d recommend using the oven for these babies. They can be grilled, but you might lose out on the crunchy cheese bits.
For “semi-fans” of bleu cheese, a mild, creamy variety, like Cambozola or D’Auvergne would be my first choice (and what I used here). Neither of these is too strong and both offer unmatched creaminess. For a more pungent flavor, use a stronger, firm bleu, like Amish Buttermilk. And if bleu cheese is just not your jive, experiment with your own favorites, such as brie, sharp cheddar, boursin, or gouda.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Apricot and Creamy Bleu Cheese
Makes 12 bundles
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
36 thick asparagus spears (about the diameter of a Sharpie marker, use more or less depending on thickness)
12 slices paper-thin prosciutto
6 ounces creamy, mild bleu cheese, sliced or divided into 12 pieces
12 teaspoons apricot preserves
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Parchment paper, for lining pan
- Preheat the oven to 450“F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place 1 prosciutto slice on your workspace. Place 3 asparagus spears on the left third of the prosciutto. Top with 1 portion of cheese and one teaspoon of the preserves. Roll up asparagus within the prosciutto, keeping the cheese inside as best as possible, and press to seal prosciutto when you reach the end.
- Place, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining asparagus. May be made up to 2 days ahead, to this point. Once all bundles are rolled, drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and lots of cracked pepper.
- Roast at 450“F until tender and lightly golden in spots, about 10-15 minutes
Images from Briana Goodall.