What To Do With Too Much Bread.

I made this bread pudding almost a month ago now. It was tasty then, but I was in the midst of a cooking spree and didn’t have time to write about it.

What made me remember it now?

Last night I went out to dinner at The Bee’s Knees in Morrisville, which is much classier than its website might suggest. In fact it is an extremely nice, really cool restaurant. We ate a couple different things which were all delicious, but one thing – wow! It was a baked pear, topped with local brie melted into a gooey puddle of goodness, drenched in warm maple syrup, and served with excellent crusty bread. How could four ingredients make something so amazing? And why had nobody thought of this combination before? We ate the pear as an appetizer, but afterwards we didn’t need dessert. It was, well, incredible (so was the fish special, but that’s another story).

That pear has very little in common with my bread pudding, but what I thought was, simplicity. Sometimes you need to choose a few very good ingredients instead of a lot of very good ingredients. I remember a frittata which I used to make. Originally, it was a mushroom-leek frittata. I thought, this is really good; more must be better. So I started adding more and more of my favorite vegetables. But it didn’t get any better. It didn’t get worse, exactly, but the mushrooms and leeks were enough to make that dish sparkle.

I thought that this asparagus bread pudding was something like that. The asparagus is enough to make a fantastic bread pudding. But the more I thought about it, I realized that even though this is easy to whip up, it’s not actually that simple. There’s the bread. The asparagus. A shallot and some mushrooms. Cheese. Eggs and milk to hold everything together. Not too complex, but compared to the pear, it’s far from simplicity personified (or dish-i-fied).

It’s a great bread pudding, though. And you don’t often think about bread pudding; or at least, I don’t. But you should – it’s an excellent half of a meal. Think about it. Make this one. You won’t regret it.

Savory Asparagus Bread Pudding

Adapted slightly; from Hands-Off Cooking by Ann Rolke via Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks

4-5 slices of white(ish) sourdough bread

3-4 slices of whole wheat multigrain bread, especially nice if it’s a little nutty

3 cups milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

a dash of pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried dill

1 bunch of asparagus

6-8 crimini mushrooms, or the darkest mushrooms you can find without spending a fortune

1 shallot, sliced thinly

3/4 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare grease tart dish, or some other baking vessel, to cook the pudding. Then start chopping up bread. Cut all the slices into 3/4 inch cubes, although varying the size a little bit makes things more interesting. Put all of the bread in a large bowl and mix it up so the white and multigrain cubes are evenly distributed. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, eggs, and seasonings. Pour it over the bread and stir so everything is evenly coated. Finally, chop the asparagus into small (1-inch?) pieces, chop up the mushrooms, and slice the shallots. Toss all of these things in with the bread, and the pour the entire thing into the tart pan. Stick in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, then take it out and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Return to the oven for 15 or so more minutes, or until it’s quite brown and crispy-looking.

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