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.
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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