Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wild Mushroom & Gruyère Cheese Bread Pudding

This wonderfully rich and savoury Wild Mushroom and Gruyère Cheese Bread Pudding absolutely bursts with the pungent aromas of nature's impressive bounty of fresh cremini, shiitake and porcini mushrooms. Sautéed in a fragrant elixir of butter, garlic, onions and thyme, the wild mushrooms are submerged in rich and creamy cheese-custard soaked bread, and baked until golden brown. This dish is a great main-course for vegetarians at Thanksgiving or served as a side dish with roast turkey, chicken or prime rib of beef, and delicious napped with a fragrant demi-glace, Madeira sauce or rich, brown gravy.

Savoury bread puddings are rather like a stuffing, but more luscious and custardy. Best yet, they can be made ahead and even taste better if they've had time to soak overnight. Simple, versatile, and convenient, bread puddings use only a few key ingredients — bread, eggs, milk, and tasty garnishes — all items we usually have on hand. They make excellent breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner dishes, main courses or sides, vegetarian or not, and adapt to a huge range of flavours. Unleash your imagination and your pantry, and go wild — mushrooms that is!

Wild Mushroom & Gruyère Cheese Bread Pudding
Serves 8

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/4 lb cremini & shiitake mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
3 3/4 cups stale french bread, crusts left on, cubed
3/4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
5 tbsp butter
1 tbsp chopped parsley, for garnish
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1/4 cup of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Whisk together the cream, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and set aside.

Lift the porcini mushrooms out of the water, careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom, and chop them into a fine dice. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve. 

Clean and thickly slice the fresh mushrooms. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan, and cook the onions and garlic over medium heat until browned. Add thyme and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the fresh and reconstituted porcini mushrooms, and cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes, or until browned and quite a lot of moisture has cooked off. Stir in parsley, and remove from heat. 

Whisk eggs, cream, cheese, porcini liquid, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add the bread and combine thoroughly using your hands. Gently squish the bread and egg together, and keep squishing until the bread is throughly soaked. Stir in the mushroom mixture and pour the whole lot into a pre-greased 9"x12" baking dish, copper casserole or small ramekins, for attractive individual servings. Cover and let the mixture stand for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 or 5 hours, or even overnight. 

When ready to cook the bread pudding, dot the surface with 3 tablespoons of butter and bake until the pudding is golden brown and bubbly, about 40-50 minutes, and slightly less for the ramekins. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving warm with a light sprinkle of chopped parsley and parmesan cheese for garnish.