Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breakfast Bread Pudding

Consider this post "My Ode to Eggs: Part II" - I've already waxed poetic about my adoration for them, and now here's a recipe that places eggs in harmony with other ingredients that I love.  It's one of those "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" dishes - a few humble ingredients, treated properly, are turned into something worthy of serving at a brunch with friends.

The idea behind this was to create a savory french toast or bread pudding - day old bread is soaked in an eggy custard, combined with a little-of-this and a little-of-that, and baked until set inside and golden brown on top.  I started with some lean chicken breakfast sausages that were seasoned with sage, and then I supplemented the flavor with a little fresh thyme and rosemary from my windowsill herb garden.  A lightly caramelized sweet onion helped to round out the flavor, and mild cheddar mixed in and sprinkled on top brought a little more richness to the table.

I really can't write a lot more about this dish, except to say that I hope you try it.  I was salivating before it even went into the oven:

The bread pudding, ready to be baked in the oven.

Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding
Serves 6-8

1 1/4 c. milk
4 large eggs
1 t. each rosemary and thyme, chopped finely
1/4 t. salt
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
10 1-in thick slices of day old french bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 T. unsalted butter
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced
6-8 ounces breakfast sausage links, sliced
1/2 c. mild cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together milk, eggs, rosemary & thyme, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.  Add bread cubes, and use spatula to fold the mixture until the bread is coated in the mixture.  Let stand 25-30 minutes, folding occasionally to ensure that all bread pieces have a chance to thoroughly soak in the custard.

While bread is soaking in the custard, brown the sliced breakfast sausage over medium heat.  Remove the sausage and let rest on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Turn the heat under the skillet down to medium-low, and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted and is bubbling slightly, add the onions and stir to coat.  Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, until blond in color.

Lightly grease a 9 in. round casserole or tall-sided cake pan.  After the bread has soaked and absorbed a fair amount of the custard, add the sausage and the onions to the mixture, along with 1/4 c. of the mild cheddar.  Stir well to combine, and transfer to the greased pan (will be very full).  Pack the mixture down lightly, and top with the remaining 1/4 c. cheese.

Transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until set and golden brown on top.  Optionally, broil the bread pudding for a minute to enhance the golden color.  Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes; cut into wedges and serve.

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