Thursday, June 16, 2011

Savory Bread Pudding

Savory Bread Pudding

Move over croutons and breadcrumbs, I have a better way to use up that 3 day old stump of bread you have sitting on your counter.

Granted, I am a carboholic. It's not often that a loaf of bread stands a chance around me but...

I don't like to waste food. You might also call me a packrat. My freezer is mm... less than organized. Being that there is just one of me, I frequently freeze leftovers and excess vegetables/fruit to use on a later date. One of those things that I like to freeze is bread. Usually when I buy a loaf of bread I eat half and freeze the other half for a little later. Sometimes it doesn't always work out quite like that, so I have a special baggie that I use to gather small chunks of slightly stale bread for this very recipe.

Bread pudding is something I usually associate with sweets and desserts, but a savory version really deserves more love. It is very rich and satisfying thanks to the custard-like base, bright veggies and cheese. It makes for a great vegetarian main, or can be served as a side.

I like a complex, nutty cheese like Gruyere to complement the chevre so I used some Aged Bloomsday from Cato Corner here in CT, but feel free to experiment with what you like best. I love making this because it's so easy to use local ingredients, so use what you have available. This recipe lends itself to plenty of variety!

Savory Bread Pudding

Makes about 6 main course servings

2 cups milk (low or reduced fat is fine)
4 eggs
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce 
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stale crusty bread, torn or cut into 1 inch chunks
10 oz fresh or frozen spinach
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 oz goat cheese
1 cup Gruyere-like cheese, shredded

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, hot sauce and ground pepper. Add bread chunks and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30min-1hour. 

2. Meanwhile, prepare the spinach. If using fresh spinach, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw your spinach leaves in and blanch just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pot, rinse under cold water and drain, squeezing out all excess water. Chop and set aside.
If using frozen spinach, just thaw according to package instructions, drain and squeeze all excess water out. Chop and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-cup baking dish and set aside. Bring a few cups of water to a boil for a water bath while you're at it.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and pepper and cook until they are slightly tender and golden, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another minute. Add your spinach, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, some more pepper and cook for another minute then remove from the heat.

5. Add the veggies, goat cheese and 1/2 cup of Gruyere to the bread and egg mixture. Stir until well combined. Scrape into your prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly on top. Place the baking dish into a larger pan for the water bath. Put the whole thing in the middle rack of the preheated oven, then pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the side of your bread pudding baking dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Carefully remove the baking dish from the water bath and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

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