It feels like spring at the University Farmers Market. Energy is picking up, there are more vendors and more buyers. This was the last week for Preston Hill Bakery at our market. They make wonderful artisan breads using mostly local flour. I couldn’t resist buying some extra ciabatta knowing that they are moving on to other markets for the summer. I still had some bread ends from last week so I decided to use them in a savory bread pudding combined with fresh ingredients I picked up at the market this week. Bread pudding is one of those dishes you can make with good bread and practically anything fresh and it will be delicious. I found a recipe in the Tartine cookbook to use as my guide.
I used a 10″cast iron skillet but a baking dish will work as well. If you use the skillet, there is no need to wash it after frying the sausage and sauteing the leeks.
About 1/2 loaf of crusty bread, preferably at least a day old (I used loaf ends)
2T olive oil
1-2 chopped leeks
1/4 lb sausage or ham (I used a sausage patty from Skagit River Ranch)
3 large eggs
1/2 t salt
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups chopped swiss chard or other braising greens
11/4 cup grated cheese (I used sharp cheddar from Golden Glen Creamery)
2 T chopped thyme
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
Fry the sausage in the skillet. Remove and cut into cubes.
Add olive oil if you need more oil and saute the leeks for 3-5 minutes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and salt. Add the milk and cream, whisk to combine and then again adding the pepper and nutmeg.
Cut the bread up into 1″ cubes. Place in a large bowl with all the other ingredients-sausage, leeks, egg & milk mixture, swiss chard, thyme and 3/4 cup grated cheese. Stir to combine well. Pour the whole mixture into a skillet or baking dish. Press the bread down with a wooden spoon. The egg mixture should come up to the top but not completely cover the bread. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on the top.
Place in the oven and bake at 350 for about 50-60 minutes. The center should be moist but not runny. If it starts getting too brown, you can lightly cover with foil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
With a salad, this is a perfect one-dish meal for brunch, Sunday night or anytime you want something rustic and filled with all the flavors of the market.
If you live in the Columbia City area, your Farmers Market will be opening for the season this Wednesday, April 30.