Spring Asparagus and Potato Egg Bake with Crispy Phyllo Crust
Serves 8 – 12 People
3 Medium Sized Yukon Gold Potatoes, a little less than 1 lb.
Zest from 2 Large Lemons
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
2 Cups Leeks, about 3 leeks, white and light green parts only
1 - 1 ½ Pounds thin Asparagus Spears
1/3 Cup fresh Tarragon and Chives, minced
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
18 Sheets of Phyllo Dough (9X13 Sheets Preferred)
4oz. Grated Parmesan Cheese
6 oz. Shredded Swiss Cheese
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, cut in half
Prepare The Potatoes and The Asparagus
Wash and dry the potatoes. Using a sharp knife, or a mandolin, slice the potatoes into 1/8” rounds. In a small bowl toss the potatoes with the 2 teaspoons Olive Oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and 2 teaspoons lemon juice, set the bowl aside, allowing the potatoes to soak up the flavors. Next, wash and dry the asparagus, then trim off the woody ends. I trim the spears to be the width of the casserole dish, a teeny bit less than 9” long. Lay the asparagus on sheet pan and coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and a pinch of the lemon zest. Roll the spears around to evenly coat and set aside.
Prepare The Leeks
Remove the dark green top from the leeks and the root from the bottom. Moving lengthwise, slice the leek from top to bottom, and then, lay the flat part onto the cutting board and slice them into 1/8” half moons. Repeat this until you have about 2 cups of leeks. To wash the leeks, fill a bowl with cold water, add the leeks and swish them around to remove any grit hidden within the layers. Drain in a colander and repeat until the water comes out clean. Once clean, drain the leeks and dry with a kitchen towel. Next, using a medium sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat on the stove. Once the oil is glistening add the leeks and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss together in the pan till all of the leeks are coated in oil, then turn heat down to low, cover and cook for about 8 minutes, giving them an occasional stir so that they don’t stick to the pan. If they are sticking or beginning to brown, add a splash of water to the pan and stir. The leeks are ready when they are soft and slightly translucent. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking and set aside.
Prepare The Eggs
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, the remaining lemon zest and lemon juice, tarragon, chives, dijon mustard, ¾ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Using a large non-stick skillet melt ½ a stick of butter over medium heat. When the butter is no longer bubbling add the egg mixture to the pan, and, using a spatula, scramble the eggs following your own most trust worthy technique for scrambling. When the eggs are nice and fluffy remove them from the heat, drain any excess liquid that might be in the pan For this dish you are not looking for a curd like scramble, rather a fluffy cloud of eggs.
Assemble The Egg Bake
First, melt the remaining butter and keep it warm to use in the final step of assembling the dish. Next, spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Now, prepare the phyllo dough by removing it from the box, unroll it onto a clean counter top and to keep it from drying out top it with a piece of saran wrap and a damp kitchen towel. You are now ready to go!
Begin by taking two sheets of phyllo and placing them into the casserole dish, spray the with cooking spray so to soften it and then press the dough along the sides and into the nooks and crannies of the dish, beginning a phyllo shell. Sprinkle this first layer with some of the parmesan cheese, and then repeat this process with the phyllo, cooking spray and cheese three more times, using up the last of the parmesan cheese on the fourth layer.
For the next layer place two sheets of phyllo on top of the parmesan, don’t spray it. Instead, top with the potato slices, shaking off the marinating liquid. Shingle the potatoes to create one full layer of potatoes. Next, top the potatoes with half of the leeks and all of the scrambled eggs, patting it down evenly across the dish. Top the eggs with the remaining leeks and the swiss cheese. Now lay asparagus spears on top of the swiss cheese layer, placing them side by side in a pretty row, moving from left right, following the long side of the casserole dish. Once the asparagus layer is complete, use a kitchen shears to trim away most of the excess phyllo dough. Fold whatever remains into the casserole and give quick spurt with the cooking spray.
To complete the dish place two sheets of phyllo on top of the asparagus. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo with the melted butter, I follow the length of the asparagus spears for this, as it allows for a smoother sweep. Repeat this process, two sheets of phyllo at a time, until there is no remaining dough. Using the baking dish as your guide and with a pairing knife slice off the excess dough, the top will look nice and smooth. At this point wrap the casserole in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to two days.
Place a cooking rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 375°F. Using a sharp paring knife, score the top of the casserole into 8 large squares or 12 smaller ones. This is done by piercing through the top layers of phyllo dough and into the asparagus, it is easier to do this after refrigerating the dish because the butter on the phyllo hardens a bit and the dough won’t slide around when you are slicing into it. These lines will make slicing into the egg bake much easier after you take it out of the oven. After you have sliced it sprinkle water over the top of the dough, this will keep the phyllo from curing while it bakes.
Place the prepared egg bake into the oven for an 1 hour, you are looking for the top to be golden brown and slightly puffed on top, the timing may vary based on your oven, and whether or not it was refrigerated for a long time.
When it is a pretty golden color remove the casserole from oven and let it rest for 15 - 30 before cutting into it.
Serve this as a centerpiece to a brunch buffet, or plate it with a peppery arugula salad with marinated tomatoes and fresh fruit.
This takes a bit of time to prepare, but is completely hands off once it is done! I recommend preparing all of the ingredients step by step before beginning to assemble the dish, it goes very quickly once you begin putting it together.
Tarragon can be a bit overpowering for some. You can substitute all chives, or mix in some parsley as well. This is very flexible.
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