1 small onion, minced
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 pound asparagus
1/2 pound mushrooms
1 2/3 cups milk
1 16 inch long loaf Italian or french bread
1/2 pound fontina cheese, sliced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter cut into small pieces
fresh thyme sprigs for garnish
1.) Prepare the tomato sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, in 1 tbsp hot olive oil cook onion 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomato sauce, thyme, and crushed red pepper: over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10minutes; set aside.
2.) Discard tough ends and trim scales from asparagus. Thinly slice asparagus. Slice mushrooms. In 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat in 2 tbsp hot olive oil, cook asparagus and 1/4 tsp salt until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. with slotted spoon, remove asparagus to medium bowl. In same skillet, in 2 more tbsp hot olive oil, cook mushrooms until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. With slotted spoon, remove mushrooms to bowl with asparagus.
3.) Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place milk in pie plate. Cut bread diagonally into 1/4 inch thick slices, each about 5 inches long. (Save bread ends to use for breadcrumbs another day). Dip half of the bread slices, a few at a time, into milk to soften. Gently press each bread slice between palms of hands to remove excess milk: reserve milk.
4.) In shallow 2-quart baking dish with side at least 1 1/2 inches high, arrange soaked bread slices to fill bottom of baking dish, overlapping slices if necessary. Spoon two thirds of tomato sauce over bread slices: top with cheese. Spoon asparagus mixture evenly on top of cheese.
5.) Dip remaining bread slices, a few at a time, into milk remaining in pie plate. Gently press each bread slice to remove excess milk. Arrange bread slices on top of asparagus mixture, overlapping slices if necessary. Drizzle remaining tomato sauce on top.
6.) In small bowl, with wire whisk or fork, beat eggs and Parmesan cheese. Pour egg mixture over bread slices; dot with butter. Bake 45 minutes or until mixture is heated through and top is golden brown. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.