Asparagus Artichoke Breakfast Casserole

1 Dry cubed bread in oven: Place cubed bread on a baking sheet, put in a 200°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until somewhat dry. OR you can use stale bread that is no longer soft. Drying the bread in the oven will help keep it from falling apart when you add the egg mixture later.

2 Cook the chopped bacon: Place bacon in medium skillet on medium high heat. Cook until bacon is lightly browned and much of the fat rendered. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all but enough bacon fat to coat the bottom of the pan (do not put down the drain, it will clog your pipes).

3 Sauté onions: Add chopped onions to the pan with bacon fat. Cook on medium high heat until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bacon back to the pan with the onions, stir, remove from heat.

4 Blanch the asparagus: While the onions are cooking, bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and shock the asparagus in ice water to stop the cooking.

5 Mix eggs, milk, cheese: In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. Whisk in the milk. Stir in the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in the grated cheddar cheese.

6 Preheat oven to 350°F.

7 Place bread in egg milk mixture, fold in bacon and vegetables: Place the cubed bread in the egg milk mixture and press down with your hands so that the bread cubes absorb most of the egg milk mixture. Gently fold in the onions, bacon, asparagus, chopped artichoke hearts, and chives. (Be gentle as to not break up the bread.)

8 Assemble the casserole: Generously butter the inside of a 2 1/2 to 3 quart (8 x 13 inch) casserole dish. Gently pour the bread egg milk vegetable mixture into the casserole dish and spread out in an even layer.

At this point you can make up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

9 Bake: Bake uncovered at 350°F for 4o minutes. If the casserole starts to get too browned while cooking, cover with foil. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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