Savory Bread Pudding with Whatever You Have
I adore this recipe for its versatility in both cooking and serving. Toss in whatever you have in the fridge, then eat it hot and bubbling, or room temperature, or standing in front of the fridge by the forkful. No judgment either way. I like to make it for a leisurely Sunday brunch: it’s looks impressive, it can be made in advance, and it's beloved by all ages (especially if you call it Yummy Cheesy Bread). If we’re lucky enough to have leftovers, I stash it in the fridge and then reheat big squares for my breakfast throughout the week. It’s just the right amount of indulgence while also getting in lots of greens, and whatever other veggies I feel like throwing in.
The Rough Recipe
Serves 6-8, with sides, and takes about an hour and twenty minutes (only 20 of that is active time though).
You'll need the following:
- About 8 cups bread, cut into chunks (the version pictured uses both a slightly stale baguette and some frozen brioche rolls leftover from a dinner party)
- Roughly 4 cups whole milk, or 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream, or a combination of milk and stock - enough to moisten all your bread
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (or more, don't let me stop you) of whatever cheese you might have in the fridge, crumbled or shredded
- Butter or olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
- About 4 cups of diced vegetables, ideally an allium such as an onion or scallions and a few cloves of garlic, and then any combination of leafy greens, roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, or whatever you like. Keep already cooked items separated from those that need some time to saute.
- Kosher salt and black pepper, if desired
If you want to add meat, I usually use something with a lot of flavor and some fat, like bacon or sausage. I dice the meat and cook it in the pan first, then remove the meat and saute my vegetables in the bacon or sausage fat.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
Whisk the milk and eggs together in a large bowl, then add the bread chunks. Mix in the cheese, and make sure all the bread is submerged so it can soak up the milk.
Heat the butter or oil into a large skillet over medium heat (or cook your meat and remove it from the pan). Once the butter is melted, add your alliums like garlic and onions and anything that needs a while to saute, like kale stems, and cook until softened. This could take 5 minutes, or more like 10 if you have tougher veggies or stems. Once those are tender, add any leaves or already-cooked vegetables and stir to combine and cook another 3 minutes, until wilted and warmed.
You can cook different kinds of veggies separately if you want, just make sure they are all cooked before you add them to the bread. I did the scallions, onions, and kale stems from the below picture together, then tossed in the chopped kale leaves.
Remove the veggies from heat and let cool a few minutes before adding to the bread mixture. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and stir to combine thoroughly.
Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour in the bread and vegetable mixture evenly. Bake until the top is puffed and golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes. Serve hot. Cool and refrigerate any leftovers – it’ll reheat well in the microwave.