Sunday, December 6, 2009

Make Ahead Bliss: Corn Bread Pudding with Cranberries, Sausage, and Leeks

Mention bread pudding, and most people think of dessert.  But, savory bread pudding is actually some seriously good stuff -- and it not only makes for a great side dish, but it can also serve as a main entree when served with a nice pile of veggies or a side salad.

A frugal way to use up that loaf of stale bread sitting on the counter, savory bread pudding is a great way to create a comforting main dish from things you just have "lying around."  Flavor combinations are just about endless, and if you play your cards right you can create a time-saving main course for just about any cool autumn evening. You can even assemble the bread pudding the day before you intend to bake it... a great idea for those busy nights before Christmas when every moment counts.

We've done savory puddings before, but this Thanksgiving we came up with a flavor combination that really seemed to bring out the best in local ingredients.  Fresh cranberries, bulk Italian sausage, and leeks come together with melted fontina cheese and fresh herbs to create a dish that's as great as a side dish or main-dish entree as it is as a breakfast food (and yes, I was even gobbling the leftovers from this dish cold right from the fridge). This variation uses corn bread as its base; but, the recipe would work with just about any type of bread (just adjust the moisture content accordingly).

First, you need to gather up your bread.  We added fresh chopped cranberries to our favorite corn bread recipe and used it as the base for our pudding. But, you can feel free to substitute your favorite cranberry walnut bread.  Or simply use your favorite regular corn bread recipe and throw in a handful of dried cranberries (or even currants) when you mix together the pudding.

Cube the bread, and toast it in a low oven for about a 1/2 hour to dry it out and prime it for absorbing all the delicious flavored custard.

Depending on how dry your corn bread is, you might be able to skip the step of toasting it in the oven.
While the bread is toasting, you can saute up about 1/2 lb of Italian sausage and 2 cups of leeks.  And don't be tempted to scrimp on the leeks. Two cups might seem like a bunch, but good fresh leeks will cook down considerably once they let off their liquid in the saute pan. Plus, you'll want plenty of that mild, sweet, leek-flavor; it really complements the corn bread and offsets the tartness of the cranberries in this recipe.

Stir together your cubed corn bread, sausage, leeks, and a nice handful of chopped fresh parsley and thyme.  If you're using regular corned bread for your recipe, this would be a good time to throw in that handful of dried cranberries if you didn't add them to your corn bread recipe.

Shred up a bit of fontina cheese, and beat together 5-6 eggs with about 3 cups of milk and/or cream.  Add the cheese and egg mixture to the bread and allow it to soak for 20-30 minutes, or until the bread seems to have taken up most of the liquid.  Then, pour it into a buttered 2 quart baking dish.
Bake the bread pudding for 50-60 minutes -- or until set and browned. 

Now just look at that and tell me that you don't just want to snarf it right up.
Be careful, though, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before digging in... it's hot, and you might just burn your too-eager tongue.

Recipe:  Corn Bread Pudding with Cranberries, Sausage, and Leeks

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  1. I have to say that the ingredient combination sounds quite intriguing. It's quite an appetizing confluence.

  2. Snarf, indeed! I'll have to eat vicariously through your delicious descriptions, since I fear I'd be the only one to eat this at my house...

  3. I'm pretty sure that I'm in love with this recipe. I am bookmarking it.

  4. Definitely the most savory bread pudding I have ever heard of! I do agree it would made a superb entree. What a great food imagination you have. I think it's these types of recipes that become favorites.

  5. What a fantastic idea to add cranberries and sausage to this delicious savory corn bread pudding! I love this!

  6. I love making savory bread pudding. I know the idea isn't original, but one day I was making a sweet one and though of how I had never done anythign savory and thought, "Why not?" It's like mixing stuffing with mac and cheese! This is the first time I've seen on with cornbread. Sounds incredibly delicious.

  7. I so want to have a bit of that deliciousness right now! And imagine I just had dinner too!

  8. I have never seen a bread pudding recipe like this. Very cool and looks so tasty. Thanks!!


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