This asparagus pancake casserole is the first casserole recipe ever that I share on my blog. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I’m a big fan of casseroles. They resemble honest and simple homestyle cooking. You won’t usually find them on restaurant menus or in German cookbooks but they are a staple in German home kitchens.
Asparagus is plentiful around this time of the year and I love to cook with it as often as I can. This is a purely vegetarian casserole and it involves quite a bit of effort. You could make this casserole in a similar manner with pre-cooked potatoes but I think German pancakes are the best accompaniment for asparagus. So, if you have any leftover pancakes, this casserole is the perfect way to use them up if you’re not in a mood for pancake soup.
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Generously sauce your asparagus pancake casserole
To keep casseroles from drying out you always need to add plenty of sauce. The traditional choice all over Europe is Sauce Béchamel. It’s very simple to prepare and you don’t need to have any broth on hand. It’s just thickened milk that is infused with a bit of nutmeg. For this recipe, I like to add a little white wine to my Sauce Béchamel to cut a little through its richness.
I’m sure you know that dishes served with Sauce Béchamel are quite heavy. Just think of lasagna, moussaka, or cauliflower gratin. They taste very rich and creamy but you are full just after a few spoonfuls. I feel the same way about this casserole. It tastes heavenly but I’m usually satisfied with a small serving.
I love to enjoy my asparagus pancake casserole with a tangy green salad on the side. Serving this casserole with a salad nicely cuts through its richness and brightens up the palate. Accompanied by a glass of white wine this is a lovely springtime dinner.
1/4 cup finely minced fresh herb mixture (eg. parsley, chervil, chives)
1/4 cup carbonated mineral water
clarified butter, to fry
For the Sauce Béchamel:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1.5 cups whole milk
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
For the blanched asparagus:
1 pound (450 g) white asparagus, peeled and trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound (450 g) green asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
For assembling the casserole:
1/2 cup shredded Appenzeller cheese
Preheat your oven to 390 °F (200 °C).
Prepare the pancake batter:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the eggs, milk, carbonated water, and herbs. Mix everything well with a whisk until a thin and lump-free batter forms. In case your batter remains lumpy, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover the bowl and let the pancake batter sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
Prepare the béchamel sauce:
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add the flour. Sweat the mixture for 3-4 minutes until the flour smells slightly nutty but is still pale in color. Whisk in the white wine while stirring constantly to prevent your sauce from turning lumpy. Continue whisking in the milk bit by bit and bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and let it simmer for at least 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with nutmeg, pepper, and salt.
Blanch the asparagus:
Blanch the white asparagus in a big pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in ice water. Blanch the green asparagus for 3 minutes in the boiling water and shock in ice water as well. Drain the asparagus slices and set them aside for later.
Fry the pancakes:
While the asparagus is cooking, fry your pancakes. Take a ladle and transfer about 1 ladle full of pancake batter into the pan spreading it out over the whole diameter in a thin layer, as if making a French crêpe. Let the pancake batter set completely, which should take about 1 minute. Then turn the pancake over, cook on the other side for 30 seconds and take it out of the pan. Add another teaspoon of clarified butter into your saute pan and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used up. You should have at least 5 pancakes.
Assemble the casserole:
Spread a thin layer of butter on the bottom of your casserole to make it non-stick. Place a pancake on the bottom and spread with a thin layer (about 3-4 tablespoons) of béchamel sauce. Spread 1/4 of your asparagus slices on top of the pancake, then cover with another pancake. Spread another layer of béchamel sauce and some more asparagus slices on top. Put another pancake on top and spread with béchamel sauce and more of your asparagus slices. Repeat until you have one pancake left. Put that pancake on top and cover with the leftover béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake the casserole:
Place the casserole on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes.