One of my favorite style of recipes is one that takes a dish most consider to be sweet and converts it to the savory side. In this case, bread pudding. The crisp, golden brown top covers an incredibly light, soufflé- like filling. While it is similar to a traditional stuffing, the filling is softer and more custardy. Meatiness from the mushrooms and hot Italian sausage complement the soft center and fresh herbs, and for me, make this a great stand-alone meal, and perfect with a light salad. Others (like husbands) may need more meat, but that's beside the point. As far as planning goes, this is best consumed right after baking. It does reheat well (in the oven at 350°F until warmed through), but I don't recommend freezing it. The texture remained soft and moist, but the mushrooms got tough and watery. If you do need to make it ahead, it can be assembled a few hours in advance and left in the refrigerator before baking.
mushroom and sausage bread pudding
serves 4- 6 | recipe inspired by Donna via Food52
5 cups of bread cubes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (such as sourdough or challah)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 lb of hot Italian sausage
1 tbsp butter, plus more for the baking dish
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 lb mushrooms, chopped (such as cremini, portobello, etc)
2 tbsp dry vermouth
2 tbsp fresh herbs (such as thyme, chives, marjoram), finely chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place the cubed bread on a sheet pan and toast in a 350° F oven until somewhat dried, but not brown. Alternately, you can leave the bread out to dry overnight.
Set a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the sausage, break up and brown the meat. Once it's brown and crispy, remove to a large bowl.
Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining olive oil and butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion and salt. Cook until the onion begins to soften and brown a little at the edges, 8-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir until it is fragrant, then raise the heat medium-high and add the chopped mushrooms. Cook and stir until the mushrooms brown and give off some liquid. Add the vermouth and cook until the liquid reduces to a glaze. Stir in the herbs and check the mixture for seasoning, adding more salt (if necessary) and some pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Butter a 2-quart casserole or gratin dish. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together with the cream and chicken stock. Add the parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Taste the custard mixture and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold the dried bread cubes and the mushroom and sausage mixture into the custard, pressing the bread down into the liquid.
With the oven to 350°F, place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Transfer the bread and vegetable mixture to the prepared baking dish. Press the bread down into the custard and smooth the top surface a little.
Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the custard is set. The baking time may need to be tweaked depending on the depth of the baking dish you have chosen. Leftovers can be refrigerated, tightly covered for 2 to 3 days.