If you love mushrooms, you will love this recipe. I promised a more uplifting holiday post after my Halloween rant, and here it is. I'm smiling as I write this, see? You'll have to take my word for it. Perhaps my festive photos below will persuade you of my current Thanksgiving-is-upon-us elation. This year, I wanted to create something a little out of the ordinary that could double as a main dish for any vegetarians in the crowd, but also function as a side dish for the whole gang. It could even, dare I say, take the place of stuffing, but I'll leave that up to you. If an image of revolting family members armed with utensils comes to mind, you might want to make this in addition to your traditional stuffing. Heck, you could even just call it stuffing, because this new stuffing will be the stuffing everyone wants seconds of.
Bread puddings don't have to be sweet. They can be savory too. Remember the blueberry buttermilk bread pudding I made over the summer? I took a little inspiration from that post and tweaked it with some holiday flavors. For me, that involves beefy mushrooms, garlic, onions, and thyme. As soon as these hit the pan and start working together, I'm immediately transported to Thanksgiving bliss. This savory version is made much the same way as a dessert style bread pudding, but without the soaking time typically involved. I got my hands on a loaf of day-old rosemary olive oil bread. If you can find something in that ballpark with herbs or garlic, that should work out just fine, as would a loaf of sourdough or multigrain. I layered the mushroom mixture over the bread pudding and sprinkled Gruyere down as the final top layer. A tip on the Gruyere: don't get distracted and start grating up the bright blue 'Switzerland' rind. This may or may not have happened to me.
The bread pudding bakes up to a custardy, springy texture, perfect for smothering on gravy. Portobello's are earthy, flavorful, and work wonders in vegetarian gravy. Don't be put off by the lumpier texture. I think it contrasts well with the pudding. If however, a smoother gravy is more your thing, you might want to forgo this version. Gravy is personal. No hard feelings. However, in using the portobello's, I've managed a lighter version, but still plenty flavorful, with just a smidgen of butter. There's no rue involved and much of the flavor comes together with vegetable stock and cooked onions. Cooking the onions longer than you might suspect makes all the difference in this gravy. You have my word. This dish, by no means elegant, is indeed decadent and comforting. It will be making an appearance on my Thanksgiving table this year, most likely sitting next to our traditional stuffing. I don't want any uprisings either. Go ahead. Stuff yourself with stuffing and savory bread pudding. Transport yourself to Thanksgiving bliss.
~Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding Recipe~
1 lb crusty bread, cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
12 oz container button mushrooms, sliced
1 large Portobello, cut into cubes
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp sea salt
few grinds of pepper
2 cups grated gruyere cheese
butter for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 pan with butter. In a large sauté pan, add onions, mushrooms, and thyme to extra virgin olive oil. Cook down for about five minutes over medium heat. Remove and set aside. Place cubed bread in a large bowl. In an additional large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over your bowl of cubed bread, using your hands to submerge the pieces. Pour the bread and egg mixture into your greased pan, again using your fingers to press the bread into the wet mixture. Top your bread pudding with the mushrooms and onions and sprinkle with Gruyere cheese. Place aluminum foil over the pan. I also inserted a toothpick into the center to prevent the cheese from sticking to the inside of the foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with portobello gravy if you're feeling ambitious. The bread pudding is great on it's own too. Serves 8.
~Portobello Gravy Recipe~
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 Portobello mushrooms, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp tamari
sea salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan, add onions to olive oil and butter over medium heat. Cook the onions for 10-12 minutes until they start to caramelize. Add 1 cup of vegetable stock, releasing and scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the portobello's and cook for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. In a blender, blend the mushroom mixture with remaining 2 cups of vegetable stock. Return gravy to your pan. Add tamari and sea salt and pepper. Check your seasonings. At this point, you can also play around with the consistency of your gravy, adding additional vegetable stock if you choose. Serve over bread pudding. Makes 3 cups.