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Mushroom & Bacon Bread Pudding

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To be more specific, Chanterelle & Guanciale Bread Pudding – but who can really spell that?

Chris and Patty Darrah, purveyors of Mainly Mushrooms at the Doylestown and Wrightstown Farmers Markets, have given me quite the adventure in mushroom usage.  Hubby is not a huge fan of mushrooms (although he has grown into them slightly over the years).  On the flip side, I love mushrooms, which as an Asian staple usually show up in contrasting fat and juicy/dried forms.  My family, like Chris and Patty, honored the mushroom as a main ingredient, not just something to put in fried rice or the morning omelet.  I find myself trying to highlight mushrooms in my dishes without seeing Hubby pick them out of his food later to give them to me.

On an ordinary Tuesday, I opened the fridge trying to figure out dinner.  We had leftover guanciale procured from Matt Ridgeway at PorcSalt (find him at the Stockton Farmers Market) that I had used for pasta carbonara the night before.  Guanciale is a spectacularly cured pork jowl.  Think of it as a super fatty, deeply concentrated bacon.  The spices and black pepper that he uses stand out so clearly you can feel satisfied from just one small piece.  If you can resist just one piece, that is.

What else was in my fridge?  A bag of Chris and Patty’s succulent chanterelle mushrooms and some Asiago Pesto bread from Great Harvest.  Ding ding!  A simple worknight turned into a rich Euro-style evening.  I served the pudding alongside a salad of golden frill, spring peas, and shallot, topped with a melt-in-your mouth duck confit from PorcSalt.

I adjusted the recipe below to account for the missing Asiago & Pesto bread.  I found the Great Harvest bread too eggy and dense for this particular recipe (although its perfect for other uses!).  An airier bread such as a French baguette works better.

Thanks to Mission: Food Blog for linking to me, check out her monthly Bread Pudding Round Up!  http://www.mission-food.com/2011/07/bread-pudding-roundup-june-2011.html

Mushroom & Bacon Bread Pudding
Original Recipe

Serve with a fancy side salad and bold red wine to complement the rich features of this dish.  Chanterelles’ meaty texture balances out the salty guanciale.

Makes 4 main-course servings

2 T rosemary, minced (can use basil if you prefer a pesto flavor)
1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
2 oz. guanciale or 2 slices thick-cut bacon
1 cup chanterelles or other meaty mushroom, diced
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups white bread cubes (I recommend a French baguette)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat; add guanciale or bacon and fry until meat is brown and cooked through.  Rem ove meat and drain on paper towels – leave the rendered fat in the pan.  Cut guanciale into small pieces and put in a small bowl.  Leave skillet on medium heat.

Guanciale just starting to fry

Mix rosemary and Asiago cheese in a small bowl; set aside.  Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Grease 4 6 oz. ramekins with some of the rendered fat.

Add chanterelles to the skillet and saute until tender.  Combine with the guanciale pieces.

Fry the shallot and garlic until just brown; drain on paper towels and then combine with the rosemary mixture.

Distribute half the bread cubes into the ramekins.  Top with half the guanciale and rosemary mixtures, then pour in half of the egg/milk mixture.  Repeat with the remaining half of the ingredients.

Bake ramekins on a foil-lined tray for 35 minutes or until set and golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Run a small paring knife around the edge of each ramekin, invert, and then re-invert onto a plate.


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