This weekend I got together with friends to watch Crossfire Hurricane, the documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones. I decided that this rainy Oregon weather was perfect for a Savory Bread Pudding. It was also a great night to try Oakshire Brewing's seasonal winter ale, Ill-tempered Gnome. The beer tasting began when company arrived and while we waited for dinner to come out of the oven. Ill-tempered Gnome was a hit as a seasonal winter ale and a great addition to this recipe.
I'm a little preachy about cooking with fresh, local, ingredients but this recipe is also great way to use leftovers. If you plan ahead you can cube and freeze stale bread until you're ready make this dish.
Time: 1 1/2 hours minimum (1 hour prep)
Yield: 6 servings
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 oz shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 oz brown, white or crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4-5 cups bread cubes (stale bread is best)
1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or 3 1/2 tbsp fresh)
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or 1/2 tsp cayenne)
3 slices thick-sliced bacon
12 oz pork loin chops (or protein of your choice)
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese (approx. 4 oz), shredded
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup beer (ale is best, Ill-tempered Gnome is perfect)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp coarse-grain Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Tear or cut the bread in 1- 1 1/2 inch cubes.
Cut the pork into 1 1/2 inch cubes and lightly brown on a medium-high heat. Don't cook the meat thoroughly, it will cook the rest of the way in the oven. Drain and set aside. Cook and drain the bacon. Crumble or slice it into small pieces and add it to the pork. While you're working on the rest of the dish, refrigerate the meat.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on a low heat and sauté the onion until translucent and soft. Increase the heat to medium and add the mushrooms, tarragon and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
Grease a 12-inch gratin dish, or a similar size baking pan, and add the bread cubes. Layer the remaining ingredients in the following order: meat mixture, cheese, then the mushroom and onion mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk the milk, cream and eggs. Once those are almost frothy and the eggs fully incorporated, add the Worcestershire, Dijon, salt, pepper and beer. I whisk the beer in last so it doesn't add to the frothiness. Pour the mixture over the bread/meat/cheese and press with the back of a spoon to make sure all of the bread is moist. The pan will be very full but should not over-flow. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or as long as 12 hours. I prepared this early in the day and refrigerated it for about 5 hours.
There are a few things to note with this recipe: first, use a good quality beer. We have so many excellent craft beers in the northwest that I like to experiment with the local flavors. Secondly, drain the meat so that the dish isn't greasy or soggy. Finally, if you're using fresh bread, cube it early and set it out so that it gets dry. The jury is out on whether that's important but I'm convinced that stale bread holds its shape and soaks up liquid best -- a real plus in a savory bread pudding. This is more like a casserole than a dessert bread pudding, it shouldn't have the texture of custard.
I hope you enjoy it.