GB&D... Golden Brown and Delicious indeed.
And the same dish posted twice in a week... well, not exactly.
First, I assure you this is the best thing I have ever made (in my opinion). The mix of hot oozing cheese with caramelized onions layered over the sweet brine soaked olives and the base of a savory herb and custard soaked bread makes this recipe (in my opinion) worthy of two posts.
Especially considering... I improved it. Actually, I was bragging on this dish to a friend. I raved so much, he asked if I could whip him up a lunch of this. I had to think, as the bread I had used was gone. BUT, I did have a coupon for a free loaf of Nature's Pride Bread (thank you Foodbuzz). I had to rework the recipe just a titch, and the verdict (from the two people who had both versions (my wife and I)) was that the new version was indeed... New and actually Improved!
Let's insert an ad... Nature's Pride Bread. Follow the link to their website, and you will find the following...
At Nature's Pride®, we make bread the natural way. Every Nature's Pride product is 100% natural. Just the way Mother Nature intended it. Our breads will never contain artificial flavors or colors. No high-fructose corn syrup. No trans fat. No artificial preservatives. Just the most delicious ingredients nature has to offer. Nothing less than 100%™. That's our promise. That's our pride™.While there is a thrill to making your own bread, I understand that it is simply not something many people chose to do. Nature's Pride is the healthy and additive free alternative.
This dish is meant to resemble French Onion Soup. It has everything we like about the soup, gooey melted cheese on the top, rich, sweet caramelized onions and bread cubes soaked in flavors. This dish captures the feel, taste, look and spirit of the soup in a bread pudding vegetarian meal.
OK, for the recipe, you need to understand how bread pudding works. Milk (cream) and eggs are combined to form a custard when cooked. The custard ingredients are combined into dry bread and is soaked into the cubes. The cubes then are cooked and the pudding happens. Rich, creamy, thick and delicious!
Most people are only familiar with a sweet bread pudding (made even more popular when topped with a whiskey/confectioner's sugar sauce). But a savory pudding can easily substitute for a starch (potato) dish on any menu. Adding herbs and spices, along with varieties of vegetables will make a savory bread pudding an epicurean delight!
Bread pudding is simple to make, but I do have 2 tips to pass on...
DRY BREAD. Stale bread. Day old (or longer) bread. Or, as an easy alternative lightly toasted bread makes the best bread pudding. Bread can only hold so much moisture. If you start with moist bread, the custard can not worm and squiggle it's way into all the crannies of a bread cube. The deeper the custard gets into the bread, the better tasting the pudding will be.
I bought a loaf of fresh bread, so my choice was to toast the cubes. Not too much. You do not want croûtons. Just enough to dry out the bread. I put mine in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. It was plenty.
Final tip is to soak the bread for at least an hour and preferably for at least 3 hours. I made my custard first thing in the morning, started soaking the bread at 6 AM for a planned noon lunch. The soaking time again gives time for all that thick liquid to get to the center of the bread cubes.
So, armed with these tips, a recipe and a loaf of Nature's Pride Healthy Grain bread... Here's what I did...
Makes 4 lunch size servings with no side dishes. Or, if used as a side dish, 8 servings.
1 sweet Onions, sliced thin
1 TBS Sugar
2 TBS Butter
1 TBS Jack Daniels Bourbon
8 slices of Nature's Pride Healthy Multi-Grain bread, crusts removed, cut into strips and toasted
1 cup Kalamata Olives, each olive sliced into thirds
1 cups Heavy Cream
2 TBS Dijon Mustard
2 TBS "Not Your Grandmother's Herbes de Provence"
A note about herbs. I have a spice mix I like. Feel free to make a dill pudding, or rosemary and thyme, or sing the song and add parsley. Find the mixture you like. mine has a Mediterranean taste to it and adds a lot to the recipe. But whatever herbs you have on hand and enjoy will make for a flavorful meal of your liking.
1 cups Gruyère Cheese
2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
- Slice the bread into cubes. Place on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. That is just long enough to fry out the bread, without actually toasting it. Keep an eye on it and if it starts to change color, remove from the oven.
- Whisk together the eggs, cream, mustard and herbs
- Soak the bread cubes in the mixture and leave for 1 hour or longer. Occasionally stir the goo together to get all sides of the cubes wet, wet, wet. The more soaked into the bread, the better.
- Caramelize the onions in a sauté pan. Onions, butter and sprinkle the sugar over the onions. Do that TV chef thing occasionally to mix up the onions. It takes about 45 minutes for the onions to begin to change color and sweeten up. Watch them carefully, fine line between nicely sweetened and caramelized coloring and burnt.
- Deglaze the pan with a shot of Jack Daniels. Continue to cook and do that TV chef thing of mixing the onions and the Jack. The alcohol will cook out, leaving additional savory earthy flavors.
- OK, we are all ready to assemble the dish. Layer the soaked bread in the bottom of a greased baking dish. I used 4 small dishes to make individual servings. I was able to do a double layer of the cubes. If there is any goo left, spoon this evenly over the top of the cubes.
- Add a layer of Olives
- Next, add a layer of the caramelized onions.
- Add a layer of the grated cheese.
- Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce over the cheese
- Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- I did turn the broiler setting at the end of the cook time. It only took about 3 minutes for the cheese to get that beautiful toasted look.
And stand back, cause this is REALLY GREAT! I mean really great. Thick, rich, gooey, cheesy and filled with all the flavors imaginable. Sweet onions, herb mix, brine soaked kalamata olives, melted flavorful Gruyère cheese.
Seriously, of all the menu items I have ever made, I am most excited about this. I promise this will be on my holiday menu. I cannot remember the last time I had anything this good.
I believe the extra layer of the olives made a much tastier dish than the last time I made it (with a loaf of bread with the olives already baked into the bread). I think by the time the olives are baked in the bread, and then baked in the pudding took a lot of the taste out of the olives. This single baking left them still sweet, plump, juicy and delicious. Without the olives IN the bread (moist olives), the moistness of the custard mix was more able to soak into the Nature's Pride Bread. Extra olive taste and extra custard taste made an extra good dish.
My new favorite vegetarian main course dish (or side dish)!
here are a few photos to give you an idea of how easy this is to make...