Asparagus Bread Pudding
Active time: 15 minutes; total time 1 hour
Here, stale bread gets new life as the world's easiest, cheesiest soufflé. Call it "savory French toast" if that will encourage your kids to eat it--and make it in the spring, when asparagus is fresh and plentiful. You could also try using sauteed mushrooms, steamed broccoli florets, roasted zucchini, or whatever vegetables catche your eye at the market. Likewise, although the tarragon and chives go beautifully with asparagus, use whatever fresh herbs your family likes best. Serve the bread pudding with fruit for brunch or with a crisp salad for dinner.
1 loaf of French bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices
1 bunch of asparagus, washed, bottoms snapped off, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 large eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk (or a mixture of low-fat milk and cream or half and half)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1/2 pound cheese, grated (try Swiss, cheddar, Monterey jack, or a combination)
Heat the oven to 350 and grease a large casserole dish. Place the bread on a large baking sheet and toast for 10 or so minutes, until it is dry to the touch, but not browned.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook the asparagus pieces for 3 minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and herbs.
Arrange the bread slices in the casserole dish, overlapping as little as possible, then arrange the asparagus over the bread, sprinkle with the cheese, and pour the custard over all, pressing down any bread pieces that aren't submerged. Allow to sit for half an hour or so, so that the bread can absorb the egg mixture--or else refrigerate it, covered, overnight. Bake it in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes, until it is puffed and brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.