Wow, this was simply delicious straight from the oven. I took my basic ”formula” for sweet bread pudding (think apple) and combined it with Thanksgiving leftovers and greens from the end-of-season farm gleaning. Starting from scratch, I might have opted for butternut squash and chard, but what I had on hand were a flavorful medley of sweet potatoes, rutabaga, carrots and turnips previously roasted and seasoned with thyme, and a bunch of really fresh young kale. Plus a hunk of bread going stale and more milk than the two of us could consume once the brood went back to school after the holiday. The solution was obvious.
Bread pudding, which is The Dad’s favorite comfort food, is adaptable to whatever’s on hand, sweet or savory. My typical formula involves 2 eggs per cup of milk plus about 2 ½ cups of stale (or slightly dried) bread cubes and a cup or two of other ingredients that don’t absorb moisture. One important step is to let the combined mixture sit for a while so that the bread absorbs the liquid before it’s baked. I didn’t feel compelled to add grated cheese on top, but a little sprinkle made a nice brown topping. This is great served on its own with a little salad, or with a side of smoky ham or really thick bacon.
Savory bread pudding with roots and greens
5 cups bread cubes (about 6 oz)
2 cups roasted root vegetables
4 cups torn leaves of kale (about 12 small or 6 large leaves)
Salt and pepper
2 cups milk (nonfat is fine)
¼ cup grated cheese (optional)
Prepare the main ingredients. If the bread is very moist, dry it out in the oven at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and place in a baking dish (10-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish or something equivalent). Toss in cubes of pre-cooked vegetables. (If roasting, cut into ¾-1-inch pieces, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and roast at 75 for 15-20 minutes or until tender, keeping each type separate because of different roasting times.) Tear the kale into small pieces and cook in lightly boiling water until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the age of the greens, drain, cool and squeeze out the extra moisture. Toss everything in the baking dish and season with thyme, a few gratings of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly beat the eggs, combine with the milk, and pour over the bread, pushing down on the ingredients to absorb the liquid. Let sit for 15-20 minutes or longer. (This can be refrigerated at this point and cooked later.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sprinkle with cheese if using, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is browned. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving.