This dish is in the oven for our supper tonight. It’s the first meal I ever made for G. when we started dating. Actually, we hadn’t started dating because it was a first date, sort of. Over twenty-eight years later, it is just as pleasing as it was then and it’s a joy to revisit it.
Years ago, Georgeanne Brennan wrote a cookbook about French country cooking called “Potager.” Its name refers to growing herbs and tender lettuces in either pots on your kitchen steps or nearby in a garden plot near the kitchen door. The recipe calls for using old bread saved from crusts and ends of, in this case, homemade 10-grain bread. The bread is torn into pieces and soaks in milk until absorbed. In the meantime, fresh asparagus, a harbinger of new Spring, is cleaned, cut into 2-3 inch lengths and parboiled until bright green. Drained, the asparagus is added in layers with Fontina and Swiss cheese on top of the soft bread. An egg/milk mixture is poured over the casserole and ends with asparagus, cheeses and grated parmesan cheese with bits of butter on top of the dish*.
In a 350 degree oven, the casserole bakes for about 45 minutes. Cooled for about ten minutes, it’s ready to serve with perhaps a light, green salad with fresh oranges on the side. It’s a sunny Spring evening with a light breeze coming in the windows – a perfect setting for a culinary reunion with an old friend!
*As there are two of us, I made half the recipe in a medium sized baking dish. For the published recipe, it will serve about 6 people and will need to be baked in a large baking dish. Be sure to bake the casserole the allotted time even if the cheese topping looks golden brown – otherwise the bread/egg mixture may not be cooked through.