Asparagus and Caramelized Leek Bread Pudding

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Recipe from The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally, by Ivy Manning. (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

Asparagus and Caramelized Leek Bread Pudding
6 to 8 servings

This savory bread pudding is a good option as either a brunch entrée or a side dish for grilled chicken or fish. Use thick asparagus to make sure it won't overcook while baking. Lemon thyme, a hearty variety of thyme with green and yellow variegated leaves, gives the bread pudding a refreshing lemon flavor. Regular fresh thyme can be substituted.


  • 10 ounces focaccia or French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • Ice water for blanching
  • 1 medium leek
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 8 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and let stand overnight to become stale, or quick-dry in a 200º F oven for 40 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350º F and butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus, and cook until it is bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and blanch in the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. Remove the dark green part of the leek and discard. Halve the leek lengthwise, rinse well between layers, and thinly slice. In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water and continue to cook until the leeks are caramel colored and tender, 5 minutes; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the half-and-half, eggs, zest, and thyme. Put the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle on the leeks. Arrange the asparagus on top and pour the egg mixture over all. Press with a spatula to submerge the bread cubes; sprinkle the top with both cheeses.
  5. Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake until the edges are golden brown and a butter knife comes out clean when inserted in the center, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes, cut into squares, and serve.


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