I know, I know. I went radio silent, disappeared with no warning. I’m sorry, my bad. It was my kids’ spring break and I spontaneously decided to fully embrace our staycation with friends. I left my computer (and kitchen) mostly untouched and visited museums in DC (the Kusama exhibit really is “all that”) and the beach in Rehoboth. The legendary DeeDee of DeeDee’s Brownies fame came along to up the fun quotient.
Now we are back, and have reached full swing craziness with lacrosse games, soccer matches, regattas and practices galore. Dinner seems to be anything that can be made ahead and eaten on demand (Korean Beef Bowl) or something that can be pulled together without a second thought (Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Pre-Shredded Potato Hash Browns). I’ll eventually access the recess of my brain that stores all the quick, easy meals that work on chaotic spring nights and I promise to share. In the meantime, let’s do brunch.
Brunch is often reserved for special occasions or fantasies–who are these people who have the time to laze around on a Sunday afternoon sipping mimosas and bloodies? But brunch is also something that gets suggested when the calendars of three friends just can’t collide. With no mutually available weekend night on the horizon, my resourceful friend Hilary suggested “Brunch?” Magically, our calendars cleared and brunch it was!
In the days leading up, a recipe for Savory Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Bacon from Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Liz Prueitt landed in my inbox by way of The Yellow House. With timing being everything, and the fact that I had the majority of ingredients on hand, I decided to give the recipe a try and experiment on my friends. This Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Bacon turned out as expected. Beautifully browned crust with a soft, custardy inside. Cubes of egg-soaked bread flecked with bacon, mushrooms and leeks were flavorful and somewhat decadent. As far as cooking time, test your pudding along the way. You want it to be mostly cooked through, just slightly moist in the center, when it comes out of the oven. It will continue to cook as it sits but if you leave it in too long, the end result will be on the dry side. Served with a bright, vinegar-laced salad, I actually think the Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Bacon could qualify as a “simple, yet elegant” supper.
Brunch or no brunch, enjoy!
- 8 oz country-style bread, preferably day-old
- 8 oz thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 2 small or 1 large leek, white and light green parts sliced 1/2" thick and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, as needed
- 1 lb mixed wild mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used a mix of shiitake and cremini)
- 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2 c whole milk
- 1 c heavy cream*
- 1/4 c grated Gruyere, Comte, or other firm cheese
- Ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the inside surfaces of a 9-inch square or round baking dish with at least 2-inch.
- Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Spread them out on a baking sheet and place in the oven to toast for a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until slightly crisped but not yet bully browned. Transfer bacon to a large bowl and pour off all but 2 Tbsp of fat from the skillet.
- Add the leeks to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon.
- If the pan looks dry, swirl in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Add about half of the mushrooms and saute, 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 Tbsp of oil to the skillet as needed. Transfer to the bowl and let cool.
- Add the cheese, 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.*
- Scatter the additional cheese 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. It will continue to cook as it sits before serving.
- Serve the bread pudding hot or at room temperature.
- If you have extra pudding, fill a buttered ramekin and make an additional, smaller bread pudding. Bake for about 25-30 minutes.
- Any leftovers can be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated, covered with aluminum foil, in a 350F oven.
- *I didn't try this but am confident that with good results, you can substitute the heavy cream with fat-free half and half.