Two foods that are in abundance around most of the country right now are asparagus and mushrooms. For some reason I never think of using them together as much as I think of peas and mushrooms, but they work wonderfully well together in this au gratin dish that has a little Italian swing to it.
This would be a great recipe to serve for brunch because unlike a quiche or frittata, this recipe is light on the eggs with only two. Sliced white turkey breast, sliced ham and a large platter of seasonal fresh fruit would be very nice accompaniments. Mmmm, a brioche baked French toast would be good, too.
Okay, I realize that I’m getting carried away with thinking about all the different ways to serve this au gratin casserole, so on to the recipe. Enjoy! I had a hard time not eating the entire casserole when I took it out of the oven.
1 pound fresh asparagus, washed, woody stems removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 ounces sliced baby portabella mushrooms (more if you like)
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon butter- divided
1 tablespoon olive oil- divided
1 cup fat free half and half
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (8-ounce) package grated “6 Cheese Italian“
Paprika to taste or garnish
Sauté the asparagus in 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil until asparagus is tender, then very lightly salt the asparagus and put in a bowl and set aside ( I used pencil thin asparagus). In the same skillet, melt 12 tablespoon butter and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, then the mushrooms and parsley. Lightly salt and pepper the mushrooms and sauté until tender. Set aside.
Butter a 9 x 7-inch casserole dish. Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture to the bottom of the casserole dish. Add all of the asparagus on top of the cheese. Add 1/3 more cheese. Layer the mushrooms on top of the asparagus.
In a mixing bowl, add half and half, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Pour this mixture on top of the mushrooms and let stand for 30 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/3 cheese on top of the mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
Place the casserole dish in a preheated 350º oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the mixture is set, depending on casserole dish. Serves 6.
Note: I used pencil thin asparagus spears and the casserole had a nice thick layer of asparagus at the bottom that was still slightly crisp. If you use a larger asparagus spear, make sure you cook it before putting it in the casserole. You can use your judgment about whether to use a little less asparagus based on the size of the spears.
Spring ephemerals are some of the first plants to flower in the early spring long before most trees leaf out. They tend not to like the heat and will quickly disappear if temperatures get above 80 degrees. Spring ephemerals leaf out, bloom, go to seed, spread themselves about and then enter dormancy; they don't really die. All this happens in a two-month period, making them some of the most efficient of the flowering plants. That is what makes these plants so very special.
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