Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms

In New Orleans, bread pudding is usually a dessert. But not this one. Out come the sweet ingredients, replaced by mushrooms, onions, and cheese. It’s my wife Mary Ann’s idea, and we often use it as side dish. It’s a Thanksgiving fixture now. This is at its best with meaty, wild-tasting mushrooms: portobellos, criminis, shiitakes, chanterelles, porcinis, etc. The best cheeses are the ones that melt well and have an interesting tang: Gruyere, Fontina, Swiss, Provolone, mozzarella. (If you use the latter two, use a little Parmesan, too.)

Savory bread pudding with mushrooms

Savory bread pudding with mushrooms

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 18 inches of a loaf of stale poor boy bread or French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere, Fontina, or other easy-melting white cheese

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

1. Combine the half-and-half, eggs, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and salt in a bowl and blend well.

2. Slice the bread into thin (about 1/4 inch) slices. Butter the inside of a 9″x5″x4″ baking dish or casserole. Place a layer of bread along the bottom. Sprinkle one-third each of the cheese, mushrooms, and green onions over the bread. Pour one-fourth of the milk-egg mixture over this, enough to soak it well. Push down gently until the bread is soaked.

3. Repeat the layers in the same order as above, following with a dousing of liquid. Finish with a layer of bread and the last of the liquid.

4. Place the baking dish in a pan of warm water and put the entire assembly into the preheated oven. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes at 300 degrees. Let it cool for at least a half-hour before serving. It can be sliced, but it’s perfectly fine to spoon it right out of the dish at the table.

Serves eight.

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