January 13, 2011

Savory Bread Pudding

I swore I would make a recipe as I baked this dish.  I would be testing two different permutations, so certainly I could keep tabs on how much of each ingredient I used so as to best direct you toward the perfect savory bread pudding.  But instead, I got caught up in winging it and the drooly anticipation of my dinner, and so instead, I have a wobbly sort of recipe, and a set of suggestions- AND links to where you might find less wobbly recipes and more suggestions.  I do all of this because I want you to make this bread pudding, before it gets warm and the fun of comfort food is replaced by the bright colors of spring vegetables.

I've been wanting to do a savory bread pudding for a while, and I am so glad I finally tried it.  A batch of prematurely baked brioche hamburger buns provided the perfect opportunity.  By prematurely, I mean they were supposed be rising but were instead baking at 500F (don't ask).  This made them a little too dry for anything other than immediate use.  And while I am certainly capable of, and perhaps historically successful at, the consumption of an extraordinary amount of bread, I decided to exercise some self-discipline and let them stale up a little more for a special dish later in the week.  
It was so worth it.  This was the perfect food for winter.  It takes just a few minutes to throw together (depending on what you put in it).  It requires baking, so you know your kitchen will be nice and warm.  It's warm and filling, but not too heavy.  It's great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It keeps for days and reheats like a charms.  And it's so versatile that you could make it seven times and never have the same dish.  
Bread pudding is basically an oven-baked custard with bread cubes baked right into it.  It's bread, eggs, milk, and anything else you want.  The ratio of milk:eggs:bread will determine the final texture of the pudding, and different recipes rely on different amounts.  The type of bread used can also affect the outcome.  I used mostly the brioche, but also mixed some toasted 7-grain bread.  While I thought the brioche made a much better texture for the pudding- it soaked up the custard and baked up smooth while the whole grain bread ended up more like stuffing- the two different types of bread made the flavor and texture more complex.  I'd love to try it with a stronger flavored bread mixed in, like rye or pumpernickel.  If you've made a savory bread pudding before, I'd love to know what you used!

Savory Bread Pudding- serves 2 as main, 4 as side
1/2 bunch of swiss chard, chopped and sauteed until wilted
2 shallots, thinly sliced and sauteed until soft, then deglazed with 1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles (or feta, or any shredded cheese)
1/2 cup butternut squash cubes, boiled until tender
3 cups of bread cubes
3 eggs
1-1.5 cup milk 
1/2 tablespoon mustard
1 dash nutmeg
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat eggs with milk until completely combined.  Add in mustard and nutmeg, then a couple good grinds of pepper and about 2 tsp salt (more if that sounds like too little, less if it sounds like too much).  Toss in the bread and veggies, as well as the cheese, and mix well to combine completely.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then pour into a greased baking pan, and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.  Check after 30- it will be done when a toothpick comes out clean.  
Links:  These are some more recipes if you're interested in exploring or testing out ratios.
Ideas: I made another one with cooked mild Italian sausage crumbles instead of chard, it was very good.  You could put anything in one of these though, really.  Sundried or fresh sliced tomatoes and chopped black olives with parmesan and feta; prosciutto and spinach with a good Swiss cheese; mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, and leeks.... and so on.  

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