Most people think sweet when they hear bread pudding, but for many of us who are missing the sweet tooth, bread pudding can also be satisfyingly savory too. While in Brussels, we were lucky enough to have two wonderful Thanksgiving hosts from the UK; Thanks Al and Frances! While they weren't thankful like we are in the US for the introduction of western disease to North America and the stealing of native lands, they were thankful for my savory bread pudding. I read recipes by Ina Garten and Mark Bittman to come up with mine. By request, here is the recipe.
- 6 Cups of Bread cut into 1/2 Cubes
- 1/2 Cup of Pancetta
- 2 Cups of your favorite Mixed Mushrooms (I used black trumpets, porcini, white/brown caps)
- 1 Diced Onion
- 1 Diced Shallot
- 3 Cloves of Minced Garlic
- 2 Cups of Whole Milk
- 4 Eggs
- 1 and 1/2 Cup of your favorite Cheese (I used a local aged sheep's milk)
- 1 Tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley
- Salt and Pepper
Spread out bread cubes onto a baking sheet and put into the oven at 350 degrees F, bake until slightly browned, about 15 minutes.
While the bread is browning, render the pancetta and set aside the crisp bits. You can pour off the pancetta fat, or be thankful for it. Reserve a bit of it for sautéing the mushrooms. In the rest of the fat, at very low heat, brown the onion, shallot, and garlic.
This will take a while but go slow, if you cheat with high heat you'll burn the garlic, scorch the aromatics, and just end up with a bitter mess. What you want is a soft, rich brown, caramelized pan of amazingness. Season with salt and pepper.
Sauté your mushrooms in the pancetta fat and butter until they are tender and add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and a cup of the cheese.
To the eggs, milk, and cheese, add the bread, mushrooms, browned onions, pancetta bits, and mix thoroughly. Let the mixture soak for a half hour at room temperature until the bread soaks up the liquid.
Stir well and pour into an oiled 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. You want the top to be brown and the custard set. Serve hot.