Bread Pudding with Leeks, Bacon, Mushrooms, and Artichoke Hearts

Bread Pudding: most hear those words and think DESSERT! No folks, Bread Pudding can also be savory. A myriad of ingredients can make this side dish a star in its own right.

Savory Bread Pudding with Caramelized Leeks, Smoked Bacon, Mushrooms, and Fontina Cheese

8 C Bread - (day old) cut into 1" cubes
3 leeks, white part only, cleaned, sliced into 1/2" chunks
6 slices smoked bacon, thick sliced, cut into 1/4" chunks
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, (about 12-14), stemmed and cubed into small pieces
1 - 9oz can artichoke hearts, drained (frozen can be substituted)
4 large eggs
2 C heavy cream
1 C chicken broth (chicken stock, if you have it!)
2 C Fontina cheese, shredded
Olive oil, butter, kosher salt, and black pepper

* Preheat oven to 350F
* prepare a 9 x 13 x 2 roasting pan by coating with a little olive oil all over (to prevent sticking)
* heat a saute pan over medium heat with about 3T butter; add leeks and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly caramelized; remove from pan and set aside
* to the same pan, add the bacon; allow the bacon to cook until done; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside(save the bacon oil in the pan)
* add the cubed mushrooms to the bacon fat and cook until slightly browned, about 7 minutes; remove from pan and set aside
* in a large bowl, combine the cooked leeks, bacon, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts
* in another bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, and chicken broth; add this to the bread mixture and fold together (the bread needs to soak up the mixture, so fold once and then come back in 5 minutes and mix again); mix in half of the Fontina cheese to the bread mixture; season with salt and pepper
* pour bread mixture into prepared pan; spread remaining shredded cheese on top; place in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Sides should be brown and top of bread pudding should be slightly toasted and bubbling - if needed, cook for another 10 minutes if middle is not cooked through
* allow to slightly cool and serve

** uncooked mixture can be made at least 1 day in advance before baking

Chicken Stock - Save the Bones!

In our household, we eat a lot of roast chicken.

Which leads to making a lot of homemade chicken stock.

Once a week, usually on Sundays, we roast a whole chicken. Or, if we are too busy during the week most likely you will see me grabbing a whole, cooked rotisserie chicken to go at our local market. On a whim we'll grab bone-in chicken breasts, legs, and thighs and throw them on the grill for an impromptu BBQ dinner with friends.

A (good, make that GREAT) habit that we got into over the last few years was saving the bones and whole carcasses after finishing meals. We'll grab one of those over-sized, resealable plastic bags, toss in whatever is left of the bird, and throw the bag in the freezer. Over the next few weeks, we'll add the new bones to the bag. 

When you are ready - grab a large stock pot, simply throw the bones in the pot with onions, garlic, carrots, herbs, and water; let it simmer for a few hours. The end product is healthier and tastier than the boxed or canned broth on market shelves. Plus, it will freeze for up to 6 months. Make it your new (good) habit to save the leftover bones and carcasses of chicken for future use instead of throwing them out!

It's all too easy. REALLY. Think about the "whole" chicken the next time you eat one - save your bones, and, most importantly, make this stock. Your taste buds will thank me.

(note - this recipe has been doubled for the photos)
  • 2 pounds chicken bones (saved and frozen or ask your local butcher for chicken bones to make stock)**carcass/bones from whole chicken amount to roughly 30% of the total weight at purchase**
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped (does not need to be peeled)
  • 4-5 carrots, roughly chopped (do not need to be peeled)
  • 7 garlic cloves, smashed (do not need to be peeled)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme (with stems)
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley (with stems)
  • approx. 14 cups cold water (enough to cover the ingredients)
Yep, that is one full plastic bag of chicken bones!

About 4 pounds of chicken bones - would have been trash, now is the base for incredible stock!

Placing the chicken bones in the pot

  •  In a large stock pot, add the reserved chicken bones

Mis en Place - Onions, Carrots, Garlic, Thyme, Parsley, Peppercorns, and Bay Leaves

My little kitchen buddy, Lucy, loves her chicken, so she had to check out what was going on in the kitchen from her "perch"

  • Roughly chop up the carrots, onions, and garlic - no need to remove the peels - it's an unnecessary added step

  • To the chicken, add the carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaves

I was doubling my recipe, so I split it up into two pots!

  • Add 14-15 cups of cold water to the pots, enough to cover the chicken and the other ingredients; bring to a boil and quickly reduce to a rolling simmer over a low heat for at least 4 and up to 6-8 hours
Stock reduced after 2 hours
Stock reduced by 4 hours

Whether it's been 4 hours or 6-8, turn the heat off on the stove and let the stock cool for about 20 minutes. Strain into a large bowl and then divide into containers to store. One genius way of storing stock is in ice cube trays - it makes for easy defrosting in smaller sizes. Dominic LOVES his Talenti Gelato, so we save the containers to re-use for many purposes, most commonly for stock (above).

Cheers and enjoy!