Grilled Fontina and Asparagus Sandwiches with Mushrooms and Bacon

Italian loaf
Perfect crusty Italian loaf

We can’t help but celebrate the heart of asparagus season here in Eastern Washington. Almost any bread goes for this sandwich. A crusty Italian loaf or a thickly sliced country white work especially well. You can make each of the components in advance and assemble sandwiches just before serving. Save any extra mushrooms for your favorite pasta.

Makes 4 Sandwiches

1 pound fresh asparagus, preferably medium-sized stalks

8 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for bread

2 large shallots, finely diced, about 1/4 cup

1 tablespoon minced garlic

12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, and chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Softened butter for bread

8 thick slices of crusty bread, such as Pugliese

8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated

Trim the ends of the asparagus by bending them until they snap. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus 2 to 4 minutes, until tender, but not soft. Submerge immediately in an ice bath and then dry in a clean kitchen towel. Cook copped bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Saute shallot over medium-low heat until softened and golden in color. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon butter and increase heat to medium. Saute mushrooms until they soften and release their liquid. When the liquid has cooked off, increase heat to medium-high and cook until beginning to brown. Add the remaining butter if necessary. Stir in Parmesan and thyme and cook until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lightly butter one side of each piece of bread. Sprinkle half the Fontina on the unbuttered side of four pieces. Top evenly with mushrooms and arrange the asparagus spears lengthwise over the mushrooms. Sprinkle with bacon and remaining cheese and top with remaining bread. Cook on a griddle or in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until bread is golden, cheese is melted and the sandwiches are warmed through.