Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with Fontina

Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with FontinaHave you heard? Easter is this Sunday…Bring on the chocolate rabbit!

Growing up I had it easy. I would wake up Easter morning to find that a chocolate filled basket had waltzed into my room and was waiting for me next to the bed. There were no hunts, no agonizing wait to consume incredibly large amounts of sugar, just the sweet flavor of bunny ears before breakfast.

Now that I am a parent (and because I’m evil and it’s too much fun to see them sweat) I like to make my kids work for it. My favorite form of torture is the Pence Farm Treasure hunt. This isn’t your usual “Egg Hunt” my friend.

Our house sits on a lot that is just under an acre and a quarter. I hide clues for the kids in color coded plastic eggs all over the property. Each kid has their own color, and each egg has a clue to where the next easter egg is hidden. Chances are, that clue you find will send you all the way to the other side of the property from where you found it. It’s a lot of running and it gets the blood pumping y’all.

The eggs can be anywhere: In the chicken coop with the real ones, in the fruit orchard under the apple tree, in the garden with the potatoes or in Rocket Dog’s House with the pile of stolen socks from the laundry. The first rule of the treasure hunt is that there are no rules.

By the time the kids are done, they are sweaty and tired, and my husband and I have enjoyed at least one cup of coffee in relative peace and quiet…which, frankly, may be real reason we do the treasure hunt.

Enjoy your Easter Sunday everyone! And if you are looking for an easy dish for brunch, check out the recipe for Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with Fontina. It is another one of my favorites from my classes at Tante Marie in San Francisco. 

Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with Fontina
Mary Risley, Tante Marie Cooking School, San Francisco

This makes an excellent dish for Easter brunch on it’s own or when topped with fried or poached eggs.

12 to 16 thick slices dry bread
2-1/2 to 3 cups milk
1 lb. asparagus
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. Fontina cheese, Swiss cheese or other white cheese, shredded
1 tbs. butter, cut into small bits

Place the bread in a single layer in a shallow dish. Pour 2 1/2 cups milk over the top. Let soak until the bread has absorbed the milk and becomes soft, about 30 minutes. Press the bread slices to extract the milk. Measure the milk, you should have 1/2 cup milk left after squeezing. If not, make up the difference with the additional 1/2 cup milk as needed. Set the milk and bread aside.

While the bread is soaking, trim the asparagus, removing the woody ends. Cut the stalks on the diagonal into thin slivers each about 2 inches long and 3/8 of an inch thick. Arrange the slivered asparagus on a steamer rack and place over gently boiling water. Cover and steam until barely tender, 2 or 3 minutes, or plunge into boiling water until tender when pierced with a fork. Immediately place the asparagus under cold running water until cold. Drain and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3-4 quart mold—a souffle dish works well.
In a bowl beat together the eggs, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup milk until well blended. Layer one-third of the bread in the prepared dish. Set 6 or 8 asparagus slivers aside and top the bread layer with half of the remaining asparagus. Spread one-third of each of the cheeses over the asparagus.

Repeat the layers, using half of the remaining bread, all of the remaining asparagus, and half of the remaining cheese. Arrange the remaining bread on top, spread the remaining cheese over it, and garnish with the reserved asparagus slivers. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the layers and then dot with the butter.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top is crusty brown and a knife inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.


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