French Onion Bread Pudding

I know I’ve been writing a lot of sweet entries as opposed to savory. The reason? Desserts always go over well. Yeah, a braised lamb shank will get you some attention, but a molten chocolate cake is always appreciated. Here at Tufts, there are a lot of vegetarians and unadventurous eaters (think Bacon Ice Cream), but everyone loves desserts. After all, why do you think BAKE sales are so popular? Who knew that clearing one’s conscience only takes a $1.00 and a couple of brownies!

So with that in mind, here’s a twist on a popular dessert, Bread Pudding. I’ve had some pretty amazing bread puddings in my day, so I was eager to try out this recipe. Here are a couple of reasons to love it.

1.)    The thing is made in a casserole dish, which means easy cleanup and preparation. This is a HUGE plus when you don’t have a dishwasher (or a kitchen sink).

2.)     Carmelized Onions. Lots of them.

3.)    Since it’s based on French Onion Soup, the requisite use of cheese helps to bind it together. And who doesn’t love gooey melted cheese?

4.)    The use of grainy mustard helps to give this pudding a nice kick.

5.)    Did I mention caramelized onions?

I thought that the pudding was good; however, I still prefer bread pudding as a dessert. But if you’re looking to try something easy and different, give this a go. It tastes a lot like a quiche, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While they say it’s an appetizer, my friends and I found the pudding to be pretty heavy and thought that it could just as easily be the main course, depending on the occasion.

French Onion Bread Pudding (adapted from The Cookworks, 2003)
Serves between 8-10 people as an appetizer, and 6 as a main course)

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds onions (2 to 3 medium onions), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons clarified butter*
1 tablespoon sweet sherry ( I didn’t have any Sherry, so I used apple juice as a subsitute)
1 large Italian or French bread loaf, crusts removed, cut into 5 by 1-inch pieces
6 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Directions

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.) In a large skillet, saute the onions, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in the clarified butter over medium-high heat; stir constantly to prevent burning. They should go from opaque to translucent to golden brown. They should be quite soft by this point. If the heat is too high, you’re gonna end up frying the onion to crisp, so just be aware. Add sherry and stir to lift any caramelized onion on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.) Spread out the bread pieces evenly on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 5 to 8 minutes to dry the bread slightly but not to add color. Set aside to cool.

4.) Whisk together the eggs, cream, mustard, thyme, the remaining salt, and pepper. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for 5 minutes.

5.) In a casserole dish, layer the bread with the onions and cheese. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.

*About clarifying butter: Clarified butter is unsalted butter that has been slowly melted, separating the milk solids from the liquids. Milk solids are the things that foam up to the top of butter when you melt it down. Since these milk solids can burn and tarnish the taste of the butter, cooks often remove it when they decide to saute food. Do this by removing any foam/milky residue off the top of the melted butter. Clarified butter is used to cook at higher temperatures because it has a higher smoke point. If you aren’t comfortable doing this, just use olive oil, since it has a high smoke point. Butter is used for the flavor, but don’t worry about it

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