When I hear the word Savory, I think of an important mentor and friend, Allan Savory, who founded Holistic Management. Working with him changed my life on many levels, including how I understand the natural world. I will post more about this in the future. In culinary terms it can refer to the herb savory, delicious on green beans straight out of the garden; or simply describe a pleasant flavor or aromatic. In this case, savory is bread pudding that is not sweet. This bread pudding is full of whole grains, vegetables, fresh herbs, and cream (or milk, if you prefer). It is winter comfort food that nourishes your soul, while filling your stomach.
I wasn’t sure about it at first – but I like living on the edge. I dress the same way. If something is a few degrees from normal, I’m compelled to try it on. More often than not, it becomes my favorite piece of clothing. Personal expression has always been important - as long as it’s not off-the-chart weird. The same principle applies to cooking. The idea of grains, vegetables and dairy baked together with fresh herbs sounded logical and tasty…and vintage. It’s the perfect dish to use remainders of last week’s grocery shopping, when your eyes were bigger than your stomach. I threw in what I had on hand. That’s the beauty of it. After tasting it, I served it with a romaine salad and olives. Next time chopped olives are going in too. Sausage would kick it up a notch ..hot Italian if it were me – but I’m from Brooklyn. Anything hot Italian sounds good to me. This is the vegetarian version…but not vegan or gluten-free, by any means. Brown the crumbled meat from a sausage or two and throw in if you like. This is hearty cowboy food.
At first bite, my guests appeared hesitant, but the next bite revealed they were broadening their expectations of bread pudding. It’s all about managing expectations. And relationships. My relationship with bread pudding has now expanded. I believe we’ll be lifelong friends when comfort food is called for. I sent what was left home with my guests, and they’ve since asked for the recipe. They said they couldn’t stop eating it, and pleaded with me to make it for them again. They said it was even better the next day.
Note: You will bake this in a water bath. This requires a pan larger than the one you’re baking the pudding in.
salt and pepper
butter or olive oil, to your preference.
10 – 12 slices whole grain bread, day or two or three old is great too.
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks, sliced thinly (white and light green part only)
1 large fennel bulb, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 package mushrooms, sliced. Whatever kind you prefer.
a handful of asparagus spears, sliced in 1-2 inch pieces
1 bunch greens – spinach, swiss chard, etc.
2 cups grated cheese – gruyere, fontina, or white cheddar (I used gruyere..so good!)
1 cup asiago, romano OR parmigiano reggiano, grated (whatever you like or have on hand)
6 – 8 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish or large casserole. Set aside.
Cut bread into quarters, or large cubes. Toss with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle and toss with a pass of olive oil. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in oven for a few minutes until they are lightly toasted, turning occasionally. Just enough to firm it up to withstand the soaking without falling apart. Place in the baking dish or a large bowl.
Saute the leeks, garlic, red pepper, fennel in olive oil or butter until soft. About halfway through (7 minutes or so), add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, another few minutes. Add this mixture to the bread.
Blanch the asparagus pieces for one minute, and remove from water. Add the greens for just a moment to soften them, but not turn them dark green. Add these vegetables to the bowl.
In another bowl, whisk eggs. Add the cream and milk and whisk until very well combined. Whisk in spices to taste. Add cheese and one half the parmesan, romano or Asiago. Add the liquid mixture to the pan or bowl with the bread and vegetable mixture. Be sure to immerse all the bread. I do it in the pan to reduce clean-up, but you may prefer to use a separate bowl. It’s up to you. It’s most important you are comfortable with cooking…and do it your way.
Let the bread soak in the liquid mixture for a few minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cover with foil. Place baking or casserole dish in a large baking dish and fill it with water until the water reaches halfway up the side of the dish. Remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to brown the top. Bake at 375 for about one hour., or until the center is firmly set.
Let is rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with salad, olives, sausage…whatever you fancy! Enjoy!
I posted both pictures here. I didn’t know which one I liked best. Which one do you prefer?