I've always found the fatter spears have less waste, don't require as much work to prepare and are less susceptible to overcooking. You might think that large equals tough, but I find they are juicier, meatier and sweeter than their thinner cousins.
500g of medium-sized or larger asparagus
a pot of water
100ml of grated parmesan or gruyere
a couple of pinches of salt and pepper
a mixture of half breadcrumbs and half grated parmesan
For four people, select 500g of medium-sized or larger asparagus.
Start by trimming off the top 12cm of each of the spears (the rest can either go into soup or a salad). Bring a pot of water to the boil and plunge the tips in for 11/2 minutes. Refresh them under cold running water, then drain.
Preheat the oven to 190C. In a saucepan heat 250ml cream and add 100ml of grated parmesan or gruyere and bring to a simmer. Add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, and continue simmering until the sauce thickens. Cut the spears in half and distribute evenly in four gratin (ovenproof baking dishes). Pour enough cream into each of the dishes so that the asparagus is almost covered.
Sprinkle a mixture of half breadcrumbs and half grated parmesan on top and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.