Growing up, my mom made asparagus casserole using a recipe from an old church cookbook. It called for evaporated milk, canned asparagus, and hard-cooked eggs, and I loved it. Years ago, I decided to create my own version, elevating this side dish with fresh asparagus and morels. The result is this lighter, looser casserole topped with crispy bacon and hard-boiled eggs. It’s great with our hickory-smoked pork shoulder or “Sappy Spice” grilled chicken. If you can’t find morels, you can use big button mushrooms or King oyster mushrooms instead. (Cut the mushrooms into [1/4]-inch slices and skip step 3 if you use something other than morels.) — Adam Sappington
Recipes and Photos from HEARTLANDIA by Adam and Jackie Sappington. Copyright © 2015 by Adam Sappington and Jackie Sappington. Photography © 2015 by John Valls. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Place the eggs in a small saucepan and fill with cold water to completely cover the eggs. Salt the water and bring it to a hard simmer over medium-high heat. Once the water reaches a hard simmer, cook the eggs for 8 minutes.
Drain the eggs in a colander and run cool water over them. While they are still hot, peel the eggs one by one under cool running water.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the morels and boil for 10 seconds. (This cleans the morels and kills any worms or spores that might be in them.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the morels to a cutting board, and pat them dry. Halve the morels lengthwise and set aside.
Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small plate with paper towels. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the paper towel–lined plate and set aside. Remove the saucepan from the heat and remove all but ¼ cup of the rendered bacon fat from the saucepan. (You can discard the remaining bacon fat or reserve it for another use.)
Return the saucepan to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Add the morels and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the morels start to release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the herbes de Provence, pepper, chile flakes, and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released from the morels begins to evaporate and the morels start to caramelize, about 3 minutes more. Add the onion and garlic and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Add the asparagus and 1 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is slightly tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes more.
Add the cream and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Using a sifter or fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour over the asparagus mixture in the saucepan. Stir to incorporate and season with additional salt and pepper. Cook the asparagus mixture, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan or casserole dish.
Quarter the hard-boiled eggs lengthwise and lay them evenly over the top of the asparagus mixture. Top the casserole with the reserved bacon pieces and season with pepper. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove the casserole from the oven, scoop, and serve.