With its layers of egg custard, cheese, and spring vegetables, this savory bread pudding, with a golden, crusty top, is an appealing brunch or light supper dish. Assemble and refrigerate it for up to a day.
|Butter (for the dish)|
|2||tablespoons unsalted butter|
|1||medium leek, white part only, thinly sliced|
|1||tablespoon chopped fresh thyme|
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
|1||bunch slender asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths|
|1||cup frozen peas|
|5||ounces fresh spinach, stemmed|
|1||loaf (1 pound) firm white bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes|
|8||ounces Gruyere cheese, grated|
|¼||cup chopped fresh parsley|
|2||tablespoons chopped fresh chives|
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leek, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and water and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes more, or until the asparagus is almost tender. Add the frozen peas and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Stir in the half-and-half and a generous pinch of salt. Add the bread, cheese, parsley, chives, and asparagus mixture. Blend thoroughly. Transfer to the baking dish.
4. Bake the strata for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is golden. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces. Sally Pasley Vargas