You can use any kind of white bread for this recipe. Just know that each bread absorbs a different amount of custard. Be prepared to make a little extra custard.You can make this with any combination of sausage, leeks, baby onions, bacon, ham, pancetta, or winter greens.

Serves 4-6

-olive oil for greasing baking dish

-12 stalks of asparagus, trimmed, peeled (unless they're really thin), and cut into 1" pieces

-3 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 clove grated garlic

-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

-pepper to taste

-10-12 slices of stale white sandwich bread or brioche (if the bread isn't stale you can lightly toasted it in the oven on both sides until it's dry)

-7 eggs

-6 cups whole milk (or substitute a cup or two with heavy cream for richer pudding)

-3/4 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or any combination of parmesan, pecorino, cheddar, or gruyere), split in half

Preheat broiler to 450°F. Grease a baking dish (about 8"x12") with olive oil. Set aside.

On a sheet pan, mix together asparagus, shallots, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. Place under the broiler very briefly to get a bit of color on the asparagus and shallots. Stir a few times. Charring them a bit is fine. Set aside to cool. 

Turn broiler off and turn oven down to 350°F.  

Tear the bread into small pieces or cut it into nice square cubes (it will end up looking pretty much the same either way). Spread bread in baking pan. Whisk together the eggs and milk. Strain the mixture into a large pitcher. Whisk in salt and nutmeg. Add asparagus/shallot mixture and 1/2 the cheese. Stir together. Pour mixture over bread. I used my hands to evenly spread the asparagus, cheese, and shallots throughout the pieces of bread. It's okay to have a few corners of bread peeking up above the custard (they will brown nicely). If the bread has soaked up all the custard you should make and add some more custard (2 cups milk + 1 egg + pinch of salt). 

Sprinkle other 1/2 of cheese over the top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until most of the custard is abosrbed and the top is golden brown.