Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Asparagus Bread Pudding

Asparagus Bread Pudding

It's Spring......
For me that means Asparagus.
I grow it in my garden along with every possible herb I can.

We live in Texas and It's difficult to grow "food".
I can't seem to grow tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, etc.
Either the extreme heat takes it all or the birds and squirrels eat it before it matures.

However, I can grow Asparagus. It took several years to get a crop going, but it's doing well now.

Spring also takes me back to the South of France.
We have many friends in France and we try to get there every two years.
We stay with our amazing friends Jean and Irene in Provence and I've learned so much from Irene's style of cooking.

In Provence summer means fresh vegetables and fresh herbs.
Food goes from garden to table!
Recipes are filled with the essential flavors of the garden that are fresh and seasonal.

Every village has it's weekly outdoor market.
The stalls are filled with Spring Vegetables and Fruits.

My wife and I have a lifetime of memories with our family in France when we've packed the car, including a portable picnic table and headed off to the countryside, visiting village after village, stopping along the way to pick cherries along the side of the road or stopping to set up the table in a field, to enjoy a picnic in the Provencal Sun.

Here's one of my favorite recipes utilizing garden fresh asparagus.

Asparagus Bread Pudding:

12 or more thick pieces of sliced day old artisan French Bread. Pain de Campagne Francaise is a good choice. This is not a recipe for Baguettes.
3 C Whole Milk
1 Pound of Asparagus
5 Eggs
1 tsp Fleur de Sel
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 C Freshly Grated Romano Cheese
1/4 C Freshly Shredded Fontina Cheese
1/2 C Freshly Shredded Swiss or Emmenthal Cheese
1/2 C Freshly chopped and mixed Herbs:
1 TBS Butter, cut into pieces.

Put the bread in a single layer in a shallow dish.
Pour 2 1/2 C of the MIlk in the pan and let the bread soak up the milk., about 30 minutes.
Press the bread to extract the milk. There should be 1/2 C of milk left.
If not, make up the difference with remaining 1/2 C of milk.

Trim the Asparagus.
Cut the stalks into 2" pieces.
Steam the Asparagus for a few minutes until tender.
Immediately cool the Asparagus in ice water, drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 10" Cast Iron Skillet, a Bram or a Souffle Dish can be used .

In a bowl, beat:
The reserved 1/2 C of Milk.
Blend well

Layer 1/3 of the Bread in the Skillet.
Reserve about 6 pieces of Asparagus for later and top the bread with 1/2 of the remaining pieces.
Top with 1/2 of the Herbs.
Sprinkle with 1/3 of each of the Cheeses

Repeat using:
1/2 of the remaining bread
The rest of the Asparagus, except the 6 reserved pieces .
The rest of the Herbs
1/2 of the remaining Cheese

Place the final pieces of Bread on top.
Cover with remaining Cheese
Garnish with the 6 remaining pieces of Asparagus

Stir the Egg mixture and pour it over the layers.
Dot the entire surface with pieces of the Butter.

Bake for 45 minutes.
The top should be crusty and golden brown.

Peace in the Kitchen!

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