Basic Savory Bread Pudding

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
6 cups dense white bread, cut or torn into 1-inch chunks
2 cups milk
4 eggs
Salt and fresh black pepper
2 ounces grated Parmesan
4 ounces freshly grated semisoft cheese, like Emmenthal

Butter or oil an 8-inch souffle or baking dish, and put bread in it. Combine everything but shiitakes, and pour over bread. Submerge bread with a weighted plate, and turn oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a saute pan, add shiitakes and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove plate, and bake until pudding is just set, 35 to 45 minutes.

from The Minimalist: Bbread pudding is a minimalist sort of dish, no more than dry bread mixed together with milk and eggs and whatever flavor strikes the cook, and then baked until it is rich and custardy. It can be savory or sweet, and either makes a simple, interesting substitute for a standard part of the Thanksgiving meal.

Savory bread pudding is a luxurious side dish that can be served in place of stuffing. Or it can be the extra stuffing that everyone always wants (but not dry like the usual kind baked outside a turkey can be).

My basic recipe combines the cubed bread, eggs and milk with a couple of cheeses. (If you’re desperate for oven space, bake it and then heat it just before serving, or serve it at room temperature.)

The pudding can also be varied by adding a pinch of thyme or sage, chopped nuts or cooked chestnuts, or about a cup of grated sweet potato or chopped scallions. If you want a pudding that tastes more like stuffing, just add chopped celery, onions, carrots and herbs.

The kind of bread you choose makes a difference. Fluffy packaged white bread disappears; the crusts of crisp baguettes and peasant breads never become tender. For savory pudding, stick to long, wide inexpensive loaves, usually called Italian bread. And make sure the bread is thoroughly and evenly soaked before it’s baked; submerge the bread with a weighted plate before baking and you don’t even have to stir.