Savory Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon
According to Elisabeth Prueitt, author of Tartine All Day, “There was once a time at the bakery when we had leftover loaves of bread at the end of the day. Not wanting the loaves to go to waste, we turned them into bread pudding—the first savory dish we offered. The combination of wild mushrooms, bacon and custard came together at the tail end of winter after a deluge of rain, when beautiful wild mushrooms were at the market. Together, the bacon and aged cow's milk cheese gives this dish quiche Lorraine-like flavors and the leeks add beautiful texture. If you have greens on hand, steam or lightly sauté them, as you would with spinach or kale, and then fold them in just before baking.” She also points out that bread pudding should be made with stale bread. “If you have only a fresh loaf, purposely ‘stale’ it the day before, so that it absorbs the custard better: Refrigerate the fresh bread, preferably already cut into cubes. If making it the day of, just cube the bread and place it on a baking sheet in a 350°F (180°C) oven and lightly toast.”
- Unsalted butter for the dish
- 1/2 lb. (225 g) country-style bread, preferably day-old
- 1/2 lb. (225 g) thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces
- 2 small or 1 large leek, white and light green portions, sliced 1/2-inch (12-mm) thick
- 2 Tbs. olive oil, as needed
- 1 lb. (455 g) mixed wild mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick
- 1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup (7 g) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (25 g) grated Gruyère, Comté or other firm cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking dish that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep.
Cut the bread into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes. Spread them out on a baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until slightly crisp but not yet fully browned. Transfer to a large bowl and pour off all but 2 Tbs. of fat from the pan. Add the leeks to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the leeks to the bowl with the bacon.
If the pan looks dry, swirl in 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add about half of the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until crisp and lightly browned in a few places 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl and cook the remaining mushrooms, adding as much of the remaining 1 Tbs. of oil to the pan as needed. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl and let cool.
Add the Parmesan, parsley, thyme and salt to the cooked mushroom mixture and mix well.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and cream until well blended. Pour over the mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Gently mix in the toasted bread cubes.
Carefully pour the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish. The custard should come right up to the top but not cover the highest cubes of bread. (If you have extra, fill a buttered ramekin and make an additional tiny bread pudding.) Scatter the Gruyère evenly over the pudding and grind a light dusting of pepper on top. Bake until the custard is no longer runny but still a bit wobbly in the center, 40 minutes to 1 hour (and about 25 minutes for a ramekin). It will continue to cook as it sits before serving. Serve the bread pudding hot or at room temperature. Any leftovers can be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated, covered with aluminum foil, in a 350°F (180°C) oven. Serves 4.
Adapted from Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook, by Elisabeth Prueitt (Ten Speed Press 2017)