I might not be a vegetarian, but I’m definitely aware of my eco-footprint. I might actually be one of those people who get smug satisfaction in the fact that I have never owned a car, that I walk or take public transportation (very rarely ride in cabs), that I recycle, etc. But really, I’m barely doing a fraction of what I could be, and Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors has me entertaining romantic fantasies of getting up early to head down to the Union Square Greenmarket every week, eating “Slow,” etc.
Since it’s spring, asparagus is on the brain, and the Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding seemed to leap off the page at me. I had to drop everything and make it as soon as I could. It sounded like a perfect brunch/light supper/room temp entree. I would make this for any pot luck in the future.
Usually I say that everything I make or cook is easy (this is no exception—nothing was hard), but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of steps and you dirty a ton of tools, as you steep the milk, blanch the asparagus, saute the mushrooms and shallots, and then mix it all together in something big before putting it in the baking dish. It’s a great improvising dish, so you can easily make it your own.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. You start with the bread.
Now, I don’t know where the flour, sesame seeds, and whatnot are from, but the loaf was baked at a bakery around the corner. It was so good and smelled so heavenly, I slathered the ends in butter and snacked on them while preparing the rest of this meal. It’s best stale, but this was freshly made that morning, so I sliced it up thick and lightly toasted it in the oven before tearing it up and soaking it in the garlic-steeped milk. The recipe calls for a head of green garlic, but I just smashed 3 cloves of garlic.
The asparagus was marked “local,” and the mushrooms are from Kennett Square (as they should be), which, while not truly local, is only 2 hours away.
After cooking the veggies, everything gets mixed together with grated fontina cheese and 4 “farm fresh” eggs. I shamefacedly admit that the cheese was imported. (Baby steps!) Damn was that cheese tasty. I definitely consumed quite a bit while grating it up. I don’t think I’d ever had straight fontina—somehow, in all my cheese eating, I’d overlooked this more basic cheese. It gets melty and gooey and brought all the flavors together into a savory masterpiece.
Asparagus Bread Pudding (adapted from Local Flavors)
3 cloves garlic, smashed (but whole)
3 cups milk
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into slices, toasted lightly and then torn into chunks
1 bunch asparagus, peeled and sliced into half-inch chunks
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, diced
1 pound wild mushrooms (I bought a mixed pack, but it was heavy on the oyster and chanterelle)
4 large eggs
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1-2 cups grated Fontina cheese
Put the garlic in the milk, bring it to a boil, then take it off the heat, cover, and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Strain the milk or just fish out the garlic, and pour it over the bread in a bowl. Give it a mix from time to time as you prep the rest.
Blanch the asparagus in a saucepan of water with a bit of salt, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Toss into the bread.
Melt 1.5 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and cook the shallot and the mushrooms until browned and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the bread.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with the parsley, salt, and more pepper. Mix into the bread mixture along with 2/3 of the cheese.
Pour into a buttered 8 x 12-inch dish, dot with remaining butter, and sprink the remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350 until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Enjoy!
So go ahead, organize a pot luck party, and I’ll bake this up, walk over with it, demand that you recycle the aluminum foil I wrap it in, and will generally be that girl at the party who won’t shut her yap about the environment. But if making a meal like this—or anything else from that cookbook, for that matter—is considered doing my part for Earth? Well, let’s all go green!