Friday, August 1, 2008

Mushroom bread pudding is all-day pleasure

Trying to beat the heat, we’ve been seeking out simple lunch or brunch dishes. Something to make up ahead in the morning to enjoy with a garden or fresh fruit salad. Today’s bread pudding is at the top of the list.

This recipe immediately caught my eye because, as I see it, there can never be too many mushrooms. Next to, or alongside, chocolate, they’re my favorite ingredient. There isn’t a mushroom I don’t like, either dried or fresh. In fact, I have wonderful memories of the beet borscht my mom used to make using packaged dried mushrooms. From the plain old garden-variety of button mushrooms at the market, to the more exotic shitakes, creminis, and cepes, I love to add them to fresh salad greens, sauces, and stir-fry dishes.

And also to bread pudding, especially when you have a savory dish such as today’s Mushroom Bread Pudding, which I found in Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café cookbook. Her chapter on puddings and custards, an inspiration in itself, includes such goodies as Honey or Maple Breakfast Flan, Sweet Potato Pudding, and Spinach-Feta Pudding. Oooooooh, I’m in pudding heaven. Post-its all over the place.

Katzen offers not only marvelous recipes in this book, but also some helpful tips, such as the following:
“You can give this pudding an even deeper flavor by adding up to 1/2 ounce of dried shitake, oyster, or porcini mushrooms to the sautéed mixture in step 4. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water about 30 minutes, then drain, stem, and chop, and they’re ready to use. Save flavorful soaking liquid for use in soup or sauce, if desired.”

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep time: 40 minutes, plus 35 to 40 minutes to bake

Nonstick spray
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
6 to 8 cups sliced mushrooms (1-1/2 lbs.)
5 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups bread cubes (1-1/2-inch pieces)
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
Sour cream, yogurt, or Crème Fraiche, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F. (325 degrees for glass pan). Lightly spray 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Place large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute over medium heat about 8 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add mushrooms and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Saute about 5 minutes, then cover and cook 10 minutes longer over medium heat. Stir in garlic, sherry, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer, then remove from heat. Grind in black pepper to taste.
Distribute bread cubes evenly in prepared pan. Spread mushroom mixture on top of bread, being sure to include all of liquid.
Combine eggs and milk in blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour mixture over bread and mushrooms, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Poke bread into liquid until all pieces are soaked. Bake in center of oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until custard is almost set. (It’s okay if it is still slightly wet on top, as it will continue to cook from its own heat for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven.)
Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temp, with a dab of sour cream, yogurt, or Crème Fraiche on top of each serving.
(Recipe from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café cookbook, © 2002)

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