Savory Bread Pudding

I was ready to bake my usual bread pudding with the leftovers of the bread I have been collecting for the last few days. Then I asked myself: "Is it reasonable to bake an additional dessert after all we ate during the break and after the package we just got from Italy full of Panettoni and Pandori?" Of course, not! So I was reasonable (the New Year's resolutions helping!) and I went for a savory version of the bread pudding. It is as good as its traditional sweet version.

Savory Bread Pudding (serves 6 to 8)
Adapted from Everyday Greens, p. 216

1 lb rustic bread, crust removed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (ME: cubes)
1 1/2 c milk
1 c heavy cream
6 large eggs
3/4 ts salt (ME: or more depending on the veggie you are planning to use)
pinch of pepper
1 pound asparagus, tough stem ends removed, cut into 2-inch pieces (ME: butternut squash cut in cubes)
1/4 pound Fontina cheese, grated, about 1 cup (ME: cheddar)
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs: thyme, oregano or marjoram, chives, and flat-leaf parsley

1. Place the bread in a large shallow dish and pour the milk over. Set aside to soak until the milk is mostly absorbed, about 35 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
3. Butter a 2-quart souffle' or square baking dish and set aside.
4. Combine the cream, eggs, salt, and pepper in a medium-size bowl and whisk together. Set he custard aside.
5. Bring a medium-size pot of water to a boil  and lightly salt it. Drop the asparagus in the boiling water and cook until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water (ME: I steamed the butternut squash cubes for about 7 minutes)
6. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.
7. Place 1/3 of the soaked bread in the bottom of the baking dish.
8. Place 1/2 of the veggie over + sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese mixture + 1/2 of the herbs
9. Layer 1/2 of the remaining bread over + cover with the rest of the asparagus + 1/2 of the remaining cheese + the rest of the herbs
10. Cover with the rest of the last of the bread and the cheese.
11. Pour the custard over the top.
12. Bake until golden, about 1 hour.
13. Check for doneness with a skewer or paring knife; the custard should be set and the tester should come out clean.

NB: I did 1/2 of the recipe in a square glass baking dish. Serves 4. Very good also the day after, reheated in the microwave. Kids friendly recipe.

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