Asparagus, Spinach, and Green Garlic Strata

This is a very tasty savory bread pudding, perfect for brunch or a luncheon.

INGREDIENTS:

1 loaf French bread (1 lb.), crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup onion, chopped finely
1 leek, chopped
2 green garlic stalks, white part only, minced (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces

10 ounces spinach, coarsely chopped (wilted briefly in a pan, squeezed to remove water) or 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3/4 cup dry white wine

6 large eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt 
(use less if using regular table salt)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (Fontina, jack, white cheddar, mild gourda or mixture)

METHOD:

Allow bread cubes to dry out overnight, or bake briefly in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes, or until bread is dry and stale feeling. Place in a large bowl, set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and leeks and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, asparagus pieces, spinach and wine. Cook mixture 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, thyme, parsley, zest, lemon juice., salt and white pepper.

Add sautéed vegetables to bread cubes. Pour in egg mixture and half the grated cheese and stir to combine. Let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb liquid.

Spray 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Carefully pour in the bread mixture into the baking pan and top with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake at 375°F for about 25-30 minutes, or until center is puffed and slightly golden. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Note: The bread puddings can also be baked in individual 1 cup ramekins.

This dish can be made the night before, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking, and bake an additional 5 minutes.

YIELD: 8 servings.