In my kitchen, I try to operate with as little waste as possible. Roasted chicken for dinner? Stick those bones in a pot and make stock. Mashed potatoes? Instead of the usual peel-and-boil, I bake them in the oven, scoop out the insides, and eat the skins separately (preferably covered in melted cheese and bacon). Dark greens starting to get a little bit wilted? Pesto. Or smoothies.
Today, I’m sharing a recipe that uses leftover bread cubes. You could, of course, buy a loaf of bread and use that, but bread puddings generally work better with stale bread. In fact, if you are using fresh bread for this recipe, I suggest leaving the slices out on the counter for a few hours, or else toasting them in the oven for a few minutes, as the consistency of the pudding will be too soggy otherwise.
I keep every heel, crust, or other undesirable piece of leftover bread in a bag in my freezer, and use those scraps to make bread crumbs or sweet or savoury bread puddings. Since I buy many different types of bread, I end up with a hodgepodge assortment of slices but for this purpose that doesn’t really matter, does it? I generally buy whole wheat (on the grainy side – I like lots of texture in my bread!), and it works fabulously in this recipe.
Savoury bread puddings are a relatively new addition to my repertoire. It’s a fabulous use of the leftover freezer bread, and I love that you can throw in whatever vegetables you have laying around, a handful of fresh herbs and some grated cheese and call it dinner. Often I’ll serve it with a simple salad on the side, as it makes a hearty and satisfying vegetarian main dish.
I have a vegetarian friend who hates when people give her a grilled portobello mushroom cap for dinner (“It’s like meat for vegetarians!”), but I would argue that this would get a pass from her due to the addition of hearty bread cubes and melted cheese.
I love the earthiness of the mushrooms in this dish, but if you are not a mushroom lover the recipe can be easily adapted to your liking by substituting other vegetables: onions, red peppers, zucchini, or even eggplant would work well here. On that note, if you for some reason cannot find fontina cheese, feel free to use provolone, gouda, or even white cheddar cheese instead.
Despite the copious amount of carbs and cheese in this dish, the cookbook I’ve adapted it from says that each generous serving contains only ~300 calories. Healthy, cheesy, hearty, tasty and simple to make. You couldn’t ask much more of a weeknight dinner.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 6 cups cubed stale whole wheat bread
- 1 cup grated Fontina cheese
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 and ½ cups milk (dairy or non, whatever you have on hand)
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl, combine milk, stock, and beaten eggs.
- Arrange half the bread cubes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spoon mushroom mixture evenly overtop and sprinkle with ½ cup of the Fontina and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan. Top with remaining bread cubes. Pour milk mixture over bread mixture and gently press with a spoon or spatula, making sure all of the bread is wet. Let stand for 30 minutes to soak.
- Top with remaining ½ cup Fontina and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake 45 minutes, until pudding is set and the cheese is melted and golden. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 pieces and serve with additional fresh herbs, if desired.
- Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook: Over 350 Delicious, Easy, and Healthy Meals