FRESH ASPARAGUS AMADINE
4 to 6 servings
Choose slender, tender, crisp asparagus spears. Rinse thoroughly to remove any sand or dirt. Remove the woody end of each spear at the point where the spear easily snaps or breaks. (May peel the ends of the broken asparagus (broken end) with a vegetable peeler, if desired; this step is only for appearance and is optional.) Very tender, young asparagus will not have to be trimmed.
In a deep large heavy saucepan, cook asparagus, uncovered, in salted boiling water to cover for 3 to 4 minutes after water returns to a boil or until asparagus are tender but crisp and firm. Or, arrange asparagus spears in an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish; add water to just cover asparagus. Loosely cover with plastic wrap, allowing for steam venting; microwave at HIGH power for 4 minutes. Check doneness of asparagus; continue to microwave in 30 second increments until asparagus are crisp tender. Do not overcook asparagus. Drain thoroughly; dry and set aside.
While asparagus is cooking, sauté almonds in 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, tossing lightly with a fork to mix.
Arrange cooked asparagus spears in a heat/oven-proof serving dish; season with salt and freshly ground pepper as desired. Evenly sprinkle almonds with butter over asparagus spears. Evenly sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs over asparagus and almonds. Broil, about 6 inches from heat source, for about 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and serve immediately.
Variation: Omit almonds; use cashews or coarsely chopped English walnuts.