When you start baking bread regularly, you end up with a lot of extras, from stale end pieces to the loaf that doesn’t turn out quite right. I’ve saved these bits in our freezer for a rainy day project, breadcrumbs or stuffing or the like. This week’s chilly, wet weather had me in the mood for a nice comfort meal, and I thought of the bread pudding I often made when I was a pastry chef, turning scraps of muffins, cake, and brioche into a sweet treat for coworkers.
This savory version is a great use-up-what-you-have dish; I’ve mixed together some leftover roast chicken, sautéed spinach, and garlic, but the idea will work with whatever vegetables you have on hand. The sauce is a simple combination of milk, egg, and grated cheese, and most hard rind varieties will work. The dish also freezes well, so you can save a few portions for those days when you need a quick dinner.
Savory Bread Pudding with Spinach and Roast Chicken
Servings: 6-8 portions
1 small onion, diced
2 pieces garlic, minced
2 cups spinach
1 cup shredded roast chicken
3 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese, such as Gouda, Parmesan, or Gruyere
6 cups ½-inch cubed bread, dried out in a low oven
In a large sauté pan, warm a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the chicken and spinach and cook until the spinach starts to wilt. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and ¾ cup of the cheese. Stir to combine and season well with salt and pepper. Place the bread in a roasting pan, add the spinach mixture, and pour the milk evenly on top. Use a spoon to carefully combine the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 325˚F, letting the mixture rest for 15 minutes while the oven heats, so that the bread can absorb the liquid. When the oven is hot, sprinkle the top with the remaining ¼ cup cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and serve.