This recipe, perfect for the chillier days of spring, is adapted from one in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. I didn't have the mushrooms, the herbs, or the cheese that she called for, so I used what I had and it came out beautifully. I kept the method the same--be warned that, while not difficult, it is a bit elaborate. I think it could be simplified considerably, and am planning to experiment a bit with that in the coming weeks. This works well for dinner, but would also make a nice brunch centerpiece.
As the season goes on a bit, use green garlic and spring onion in place of the garlic and shallot, and vary the herbs with what's available and sounds tasty. Likewise, while I used Dutch Gold (Edam) cheese, this would work well with cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, or goat cheese.
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
3 cups milk
1 1-lb loaf white bread (Italian style is good), preferably stale
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 lb shiitakes, stemmed and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped sorrel
1/2 cup snipped chives
2 cups Dutch Gold (Edam) cheese, shredded
1. Butter two 8x8-inch pans or one 9x13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the garlic and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let steep until ready to use.
3. Cut the bread into thick slices. If not stale, toast lightly in the oven. Break into chunks, place it in a large bowl, then strain the milk over it and let it soak.
4. Place about 1 inch of water in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and simmer about 3 minutes, until bright green. Remove from the pot and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
5. Melt the butter in skillet. Add the shallot and saute over medium-high heat for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and saute until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
6. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the sorrel, chives, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.
7. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, egg mixture, and about two-third of the cheese to the bowl with the bread and mix thoroughly (trying not to turn the bread to mush while you do so). Spread this mixture into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until nice and golden. Serve hot.
Serves about 6.