With R & D working on the electricity for R’s house, I was on my own cooking this labor-intensive dish, except that D brought in, washed, and did the initial picking over of the herbs. Leaving only an hour’s work to do the final picking 😉
He did get enough to make the requisite 1/2 cup of chopped herbs – sage, marjoram, and thyme.
I bought just short of 1 1/2 pounds of asparagus, and after snapping off the hard ends, had the necessary pound left. The asparagus is steamed till just tender – 2-3 minutes. The instructions, which I failed to read, say to cut the stalks to 3/8″ thick before steaming, but I didn’t do that, and instead steamed this wildly varying set of stalks for 5, 4, and 3 minutes – would have been 4, 3, and 2, but after that was done they didn’t seem tender at all). Cut the spears into 2″ or so lengths, but leave a couple for decoration. The bread was dried from leftover loaf ends, and overfilled a pyrex 8×14 dish. You are supposed to pour 1 1/2 cups milk over the bread and let the bread absorb and get soft. I tried 1 1/2 cups b/c I’ve had too much milk left over before. Zap. Milk gone. I added the remaining cup, and turned over the dry chunks etc. Nevertheless, though the milk looked almost gone again, when I squeezed the bread an hour or so later, more than the expect 1/2 cup emerged. 1/2 cup of the remaining milk is mixed with 5 eggs, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. 4 oz each of Fontina Valle d’Aosta and Gruyere, “slivered.” Buttered casserole. Stack 1/3 of the bread, 1/2 of the cut asparagus, half the herb mix, and 1/3 of the cheese; another 1/3 of the bread, the rest of the asparagus, the rest of the herbs, and another 1/3 of the cheese; the rest of the bread, the rest of the cheese; pour the egg mixture over the top, decorate with the uncut spears of asparagus, and dot with 1 Tbsp butter. Cook 350 degrees 45 minutes or until done, with the top slightly browned and a nife inserted coming out clean.
I made an appetizer of endive leaves and gorgonzola dolce, in case the guys arrived back hungry before the pudding was completely cooked, but we ended up eating it along with the pudding.
Early on, D planned to have a CalStar Pinot Noir with this – a terrific choice, and a terrific wine (2009).