Savory Bread Pudding with Everything
This follows the same sort of principle as my fried rice post a while back: you take a stale grain (in this case, a loaf of bread), and revive it with everything and anything that’s ripe, or just around. It could be everything that’s past ripe, and needs to get used up soon. Works just as well, since you won’t be seeing them crisp and fresh here in the end.
Nope, these vegetables get muddled into the mess — an oozing bath of bread cubes soaked with eggs and milk. Baked, all of their flavors seep together into the most savory blend. Ratatouille with leftover bread? That could be another way of putting it. Of course, a ton of fresh herbs is also responsible for making it so delicious.
In a sweet versus savory showdown, I’m a savory person through and through. So as much as I love making dessert bread pudding with fresh fruit — and love the economy of it — this is the version that I’d rather eat every day, for the rest of my life, if I had to choose one. The texture of the bread soaked in eggs is just the same in either one, and it’s truly custard or pudding-like. Stale bread just seems to work best for this, because it holds up better with a good soak.
The type of bread you choose, and how stale it is, affects the end product a lot. For savory bread puddings, I like sourdoughs and ryes, something with a more hefty, savory flavor. This time, I used about half of what appeared to be a country rye loaf lying out (someone else had bought it, to eat with all those herbed butters), but was at least two or three days past baking. The key to getting the bread to become custard-like is to really drench it in your egg and milk mixture, and let it soak well before using. You can even start soaking it the night before. I put a bowl over the top of the bowl once I smushed all the bread into the liquid, to keep the top pieces from poking out.
These were the vegetables that I had to use: tomatoes, sweet banana peppers and hungarian hots, shallots, sage and thyme. There was a green pattypan squash that was just ripe on the vine, so that was chopped up and quickly sauteed before throwing into the mix. Everything else was coarsely chopped fresh, and eventually tossed with the soaked bread mixture. There was also some leftover arugula salad from the day before, a bit wilted. I threw this into the mix, too.
Here’s how it looked once pressed into a greased pan.
It was fun plopping down something in front of the lunch crowd at Sixpoint that nobody could determine what type of dish it was. It smelled good, fresh out of the oven though, so they just dug in. When I told them it was “bread pudding” it made much more sense, and was responded with a chorus of “Oh”s. Not that food needed to make sense, or be familiar, by now to eat.
There’s a million ways you could make a savory bread pudding with vegetables and even cooked meats, determined by what’s in your kitchen, garden, or what was on your plate the day before. As it turns out, I’m stuck with a hoard of plums and apricots thanks to the last two weeks of my CSA share. So I’ll probably be making a sweet version, topped with whipped cream perhaps, next.
Savory Bread Pudding with Vegetables
(serves about 6, adapted from my recipe in The Art of Eating In)
about 1/2 loaf or 4 cups loosely packed stale bread, cut to 1-2 inch pieces
6 eggs, scrambled
1/2 cup milk
3 fresh tomatoes or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini or summer squash, chopped
1 cup fresh arugula
2 sweet banana, cubanelle or Italian frying peppers, chopped
2 small semi-hot peppers, such as jalapeno, serrano or Hungarian hots, chopped (optional)
1 onion or 2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, thyme, parsley, oregano, or any combination of which, chopped
about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
grated cheese for garnish such as parmiggiano-reggiano, grana padana, pecorino romano or ricotta salata (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk the eggs with the milk in a large bowl and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and press down to soak thoroughly. Keep a weight on top of the bowl to make sure pieces are well-submerged, and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight, chilled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high and cook the zucchini and shallots or onions just until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Grease a large casserole or baking dish with the remaining oil. In a large bowl, toss the bread mixture with all the vegetables and herbs, seasoning with salt and pepper while you stir. Do not overmix and break up the bread pieces too much. Transfer to the baking dish and press down. Bake for about 35 minutes (depending on the size/shape of your baking dish), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the mixture comes out clean. Garnish with optional grated cheese, and serve.