So here's my entry, a rich savory bread pudding with roasted wild mushrooms, bacon, and Emmental cheese. The Nature's Pride buttermilk bread was perfect for this recipe: soft and tender, but not overly sweet. I used a combination of baby Bellas, chanterelles and beech mushrooms, but use any combination you like, can find, and can afford (the chanterelles were a real splurge for me). I can't wait to see what everyone else creates. And hey, Foodbuzz and Nature's Pride folks, if you're reading this, I hope you like it!
Roasted wild mushroom bread pudding with bacon
- 3 lbs mixed fresh wild mushrooms, chopped into large bite-size pieces (they'll shrink during roasting)
- 6 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 loaf Nature's Pride buttermilk bread, or any soft white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (with crusts)
- 1/2 lb thick-cut bacon, diced
- 12 eggs
- 1 quart plus 2 cups half-and-half
- 3/4 lb grated Emmental cheese (can use Comte or Gruyere)
- 4 branches of fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried
Spread the mushrooms and shallots on two large baking sheets, toss with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in the oven about 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms are shriveled and their aroma has the neighbors begging for a dinner invitation. Scrape the roasted vegetables into a large bowl and set aside. Leave the oven on.
Spread the bread cubes on the same roasting pans and toast in the oven about 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and dry. Drying the bread will help it soak up the custard base and will make for a creamier finished product. When the bread is done, add it to the mushrooms in the bowl. Again, leave the oven on.
While the bread is toasting, cook the bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is starting to crisp and turn golden; don't cook it too much, or you'll have hard little bacon nuggets in your finished pudding. Add the cooked bacon to the mushroom-bread mixture in the bowl.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the half-and-half and whisk again. Mix in the grated cheese. Add the egg mixture to the large bowl with the mushrooms and bread, and toss. Strip the thyme leaves off their branches and add them to the bowl too (or add the dried thyme), then add salt and a lot of ground black pepper. Toss to make sure all the bread is in contact with the custard base, then let the mixture sit at room temperature about 1 hour, tossing every 10 minutes or so to redistribute the ingredients.
Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and pour in the bread mixture, spreading it evenly in the pan. Bake about 50 minutes, or until the middle of the pudding is set. Let the bread pudding cool in the pan at least 20 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.