Sunday, November 27, 2011

Savory Bread Pudding

Bread pudding was my go-to dessert in college. A small chain of restaurants called The Garden Café had an outpost in my university town, and the bread pudding they served was warm, sweetly comforting and excellent with cream.

This recipe for a different kind of bread pudding, perfect for a weeknight dinner, was shared by my friend and fellow alum Katie, who adapted it from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers. This is also the perfect dish if you are like me and cube and freeze leftover bread for Thanksgiving imagining you are getting ahead and congratulating yourself on being frugal and über organized but then decide you are craving cornbread dressing or elect to make a polenta-based one for your dear friend who is on a gluten-free diet.

The beauty of Savory Bread Pudding, aside from the extreme comfort food factor, is its adaptability. The original recipe and Katie’s version were meatless, but it is delicious with a little bacon or ham. This is a nice way to include kale or other greens in your diet, but you aren’t limited to those. I’ve made it with ham, goat cheese and a greater amount of leeks, and experimented with roasted Brussels sprouts, walnuts and cheddar. The version pictured below incorporated frozen spinach, bacon, leeks and goat cheese.

Savory Bread Pudding
(adapted from Katie Fortney, who adapted it from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers)

1 (12 to 16 oz.) loaf crusty bread, preferably a day old or a bit stale
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 leek, white and light green part only, sliced and thoroughly washed; or 1/2 onion, chopped; or 6 scallions, chopped
1 bunch greens (such as chard, kale, spinach or turnip greens), washed and trimmed; or 1 (16 oz.) bag frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture removed
3 T. butter
5 to 6 eggs
2 c. milk
Salt and pepper
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 c. shredded cheese, divided; or 5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled and divided

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Toast the cubes if they're soft.

In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon with half of the leeks, until the bacon is done and the leeks are starting to brown. Add the greens and sauté until wilted. (If you wish to use frozen spinach, add it to the skillet after the bacon and leeks have cooked; cooking it for a few minutes will help remove more moisture from the spinach and pick up the nice browned bits left on the bottom of the pan.)

Turn on the oven to 375°F. Put the butter in a 9x13-inch pan and place the pan in the oven. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the oven and tilt it around until coated.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard. Add half the cheese, and the greens, bacon and cooked leeks. Stir in the bread cubes until they're moist. Transfer to the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining leeks and cheese over top.

Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the egg mixture is set. Remove foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the top browns.

Variation: Omit the bacon and add 1 c. cubed cooked ham to the egg mixture with the cheese and greens.

Copyright 2011

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