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Savory Bread Pudding

This image courtesy of Mark Ferri

Although my husband swears that this dish is the best stuffing, it’s actually not a stuffing at all. It’s much fluffier than a baked stuffing, with its golden-brown exterior and wonderfully crisp top. And, this recipe provides a great way to use yesterday’s Italian loaf, since its new, slightly drier texture is perfectly suited for bread pudding. You know, that’s part of the kitchen dance: utilizing ingredients in ways that will help them to shine perfectly, without ever having to apologize for their new use.

Serves6 to 8 servings as a side dish

Cooking MethodBaking

CostModerate

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe CourseSide Dish

Dietary ConsiderationHalal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Vegetarian

EquipmentBaking/gratin Dish

MealDinner

MoodBlue

Taste and TextureBubbly, Buttery, Cheesy, Creamy, Garlicky, Rich, Savory, Umami

Type of DishCasserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups packed day-old coarse bread crumbs or small cubes (see Notes)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the dish
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups minced yellow onions
  • 2 generous teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 10 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped coarsely
  • 1¾ pounds shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean and chopped coarsely
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms (1 or 2 large), stems removed, caps wiped clean and chopped coarsely
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1¾ cups heavy cream
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon white truffle oil (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly toast the bread crumbs or cubes on a shallow baking sheet in the oven until dry and light golden, about 10 minutes. Keep the oven set at 350°F. and transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl. Brush the interior of a 2-quart oven-to-table baking dish with olive oil.

  2. Steep the dried mushrooms in about 1½ cups boiling water until supple, about 20 minutes. Use your hand to lift the mushrooms out of the water, squeezing them gently to release any excess liquid back into the bowl. Chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set them aside. Place a fine-mesh wire sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with a doubled layer of dampened cheesecloth. Strain the mushroom liquid through the cheesecloth into the bowl. Measure 1¼ cups mushroom liquid and set this aside. (If necessary, add some water to reach 1¼ cups.)

  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed deep-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter is hot and bubbling, stir in the minced onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add half the minced thyme and some salt and black pepper. Transfer the onions to the bowl of bread crumbs and, without wiping out the pan, put it back over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in all the chopped fresh mushrooms and, when wilted, stir in the minced garlic and let the mushrooms cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until golden and any released liquid has evaporated. Stir in the remaining thyme, the chopped reconstituted mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. When hot, transfer the mushrooms to the bowl of bread crumbs and onions.

  4. Replace the pan over high heat and add ½ cup of the mushroom liquid. As the liquid bubbles, use the flat edge of a wooden spatula to release any clinging bits of mushrooms from the bottom of the pan and reduce the liquid to a generous ¼ cup. Pour this reduction into the bowl of bread crumbs and vegetables.

  5. Use a whisk to combine the cream with the eggs and the remaining ¾ cup mushroom liquid. Stir in the truffle oil, if using, and season the custard with salt and pepper. When ready to bake, pour the custard over the bread mixture and fold through to combine well. Transfer this to the prepared baking dish and dot the top with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake the bread pudding, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and continue to bake until the top is golden, the pudding is swollen, and the custard is set, about 25 minutes more. Serve piping hot.

  6. Use a whisk to combine the cream with the eggs and the remaining ¾ cup mushroom liquid. Stir in the truffle oil, if using, and season the custard with salt and pepper. When ready to bake, pour the custard over the bread mixture and fold through to combine well. Transfer this to the prepared baking dish and dot the top with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake the bread pudding, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and continue to bake until the top is golden, the pudding is swollen, and the custard is set, about 25 minutes more. Serve piping hot.

Notes

Bread crumbs preferably from Italian bread with sesame-seeds.

Timing is Everything

For best texture, bake the bread pudding soon after assembling. However, you can mix the bread with the sautéed vegetables and combine your custard ingredients up to 2 hours ahead, keeping them separate at a comfortable room temperature.

Here’s the Scoop On Cleaning Mushrooms

All mushrooms inherently contain a varied (but substantial) amount of water. In addition, many mushrooms have a gill-like structure on the underside of their caps, making them absorb any additional liquid they encounter. Because of these qualities, running mushrooms under water leaves them soggy. The best way to clean mushrooms is to wipe them with a dampened paper towel. If dried meticulously, mushrooms can be cleaned and sliced a few days ahead of cooking and stored in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Also, for best longevity, purchase mushrooms that are as firm, dry, and blemish free as possible. At purchase, the gills on the underside of each cap should also be closed, since when open this indicates that the mushroom has been in the market for several days. The open gills have no negative affect on flavor; however, it means that they won’t last as long once you get them home.

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