Asparagus Forced in French Rolls

In the 18th century, the words “dining” and “entertainment” were interchangeable. Individual dishes were referred to as entertainments. The visual appeal of asparagus spears “growing” out of the dinner roll might have been the catalyst for a lighthearted conversation that further enhanced the dining experience.

18th Century

Take three French Rolls, take out all the crumb, by first cutting a piece of the top-crust off; be careful that the crust fits again the same place. Fry the rolls brown in fresh butter; then take a pint of cream, the yolks of six eggs beat fine, a little salt and nutmeg, stir them well together over a slow fire till it begins to be thick. Have ready a hundred of small grass boiled; then save tops enough to stick the rolls with, the rest cut small and put into the cream, fill the loaves with them. Before you fry the rolls, make holes thick in the top crust, to stick the grass in; then lay on the piece of crust, and stick the grass in, that it may look as if it were growing. It makes a pretty side dish at a second course.

Glasse, Hannah. “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”

21st Century

  • 3 French or Kaiser rolls, about 4″ in diameter and about 3″ high.
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 15 medium thick stalks of asparagus
  • butter for brushing
  1. Make a small bread bowl. Lay the rolls flat on your work surface and measure up from the bottom about two inches and slice off the top. Using a paring knife, remove the crumb by carving out a cavity in the base of the roll. Leave about ¾ inch thickness of bread on the sides and bottom.
  2. Take the paring knife and carve five little holes in the lid of each roll. Lightly brush butter over the surface of the rolls and lids. Gently fry the bread pieces to dry and crisp them. Set them aside when done.
  3. Take the asparagus and cut off the bottom two inches of white stalk.
  4. Boil the asparagus in water for 3 ½ minutes minimum, 4 minutes maximum. Remove from water immediately. When cool to the touch, cut off the top three inches of the cooked asparagus heads and set them aside. Finely chop the remaining stalks.
  5. Whip your egg yolks well with the salt and nutmeg and add to your cream. Cook cream mixture over low to medium heat until it thickens without curdling. Add your chopped stalks to the cream mixture and give it another thirty seconds of heat and then remove from the burner.
  6. Fill the base of the rolls with the sauce mixture. Take the tops of the asparagus and stick them into the holes of the lids to make them look like they are growing from mounds of earth in the garden. Place the tops on the bases and serve.

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8 Responses to “Asparagus Forced in French Rolls”

  1. April 5th, 2012

    Christine Hansley says:

    Hi Foodways Crew,

    This looks like another great recipe. If we are really energetic we could use the “To Make French Bread” recipe from this web-site for the rolls. This looks a little like a quick asparagus soup. Could be used as a small first course soup.

    I wish everyone at Foodways and all of the Foodways Followers a safe and very Happy Easter.


  2. April 6th, 2012

    mitch says:

    yum! can’t wait to try this one! In the original recipe, it reads “Have ready a hundred of small grass boiled” what measurment is a hundred? Thanks!

    • April 9th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      I think the author is actually being literal in this case so in other words; One hundred small stalks of asparagus boiled.
      -Frank Clark

  3. April 9th, 2012

    Raechelle says:

    Not a soup really. A custard, I would think, with that proportion of egg to cream. Does the warm mixture integrate with the roll and set to a soft firmness? I am intrigued and inspired by this and plan to experiment with vegetable custards served in toasted rolls…

    • April 25th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Great idea. There were lots of these at the time: ham loaves and mushroom loaves are two of my favorites. The egg in this is almost like a Hollandaise sauce but thicker, and it will absorb into the bread probably based on the Medieval concept of a trencher — a long, hard bread roll that was hollowed out and dried, then filled with sauced meat and eventually eaten after the sauce soaked into it.

      -Frank Clark

  4. April 2nd, 2013

    I loved this recipe.

  5. April 19th, 2013

    This was really fun to make, though I’m glad I didn’t try it with 100 asparagus spears, as in the original — so thanks for the adaptation. I used kaiser rolls and they worked well. Your site is really wonderful!

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