Mushroom & Leek Bread Pudding

Mushroom and leek bread pudding in a casserole pan
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Crusty bread turns custardy and tender as it bakes in a bath of whipped eggs and herb-speckled cream in this hearty, flavorful Gruyère, mushroom and leek bread pudding.  

Bookmark This Savory Bread Pudding for Thanksgiving.

This easy, savory bread pudding recipe is just barely adapted from one of our favorite cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. And here’s the thing, if Ina Garten—with her perfect-shade-of-navy tailored shirts, her perfectly-appointed Parisian pied-à-terre, and perfect husband Jeffrey—tells you to serve a mushroom and leek bread pudding instead of stuffing on Thanksgiving (and/or as a cozy, autumnal breakfast) you just don't argue. You simply say "yes, Ina" and get on with it, because that lady knows what's good.

Simple Ingredients, Major Payoff. 

To be totally honest, bread pudding was always a bit of a mystery to us. What’s the point of it? Is it supposed to be a dessert? A side dish? But this mushroom bread pudding recipe made a convert out of us. One glance at the ingredients and we began to come around. Transforming something destined for the compost bin (i.e. stale bread) into a richly flavored mushroom-and-cheese vehicle—now that’s a recipe we can get behind. In addition to salt and pepper, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A rustic country loaf of bread
  • FAT. Olive oil, butter AND pancetta. Because this isn’t just any old savory bread pudding, it’s an Ina Garten savory bread pudding. 
  • Alliums! Leeks and a yellow onion. 
  • Cremini mushrooms are perfect here, but you could mix in some wild mushrooms, too, if you want to mix things up.
  • Herbs! Fresh tarragon and parsley.
  • Sherry! Dry or medium dry, but no need to spring for anything too fancy. 
  • Custard makings: eggs, heavy cream & stock. 
  • Gruyère cheese. It’s true—real Gruyère from Switzerland is not cheap. But a little goes a long way! And there’s just no substitute for Gruyère’s salty, nutty flavor and its dreamy way of melting. Spring for it, if you can. If you’re feeling pinched, try buying a very small piece of Gruyère and combining it with a less-expensive Swiss cheese. That way you’ll still get some of Gruyère’s gorgeous flavor without skimping on the cheese. 
bowl of eggs and cream being whisked with wire whisk

How to Make Bread Pudding with Mushrooms, Leeks and Gruyère 

Mushroom and leek bread pudding comes together quite quickly, and doesn’t require any special tools or techniques (we told you this was a good Thanksgiving recipe, right?). Here’s how we approach this recipe: 

  1. Bread! Cut a loaf of bread into cubes, and bake until the bread cubes are dried out and crispy (but very much not burnt). 
  2. Mushroom and leek! Sauté leeks, yellow onion and pancetta in oil and butter for a bit to soften, then dramatically deglaze the pan with sherry—deglazing always feels a little dramatic, right? All that steam! Or maybe that’s just us?—add the tarragon and mushrooms. 
  3. Pudding! Whisk together the cream, eggs, stock and Gruyère to make the custardy liquid that will give the bread pudding its luxurious texture. 
  4. Assemble! Grab your biggest bowl and carefully stir the toasted bread, cream-egg mixture and the mushroom-leek-pancetta mixture. Let it sit for a bit, so the bread soaks up all of that flavorful goodness. 
  5. Bake!  Spread the mushroom and leek bread pudding mixture into a dish, top with more cheese (of course!) and bake. 

Make It Vegetarian! 

Not a meat eater? Don’t let a few ounces of pancetta stop you from trying this comforting dish. Just add a smidge more olive oil (or butter) when you sauté the onions and leeks to make up for the lost pancetta fat, and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock to make this mushroom bread pudding vegetarian! This is an especially nice thing to do if you’re planning to serve this on Thanksgiving and will have a vegetarian at your table—with all of the cheese and eggs, this hearty side dish could easily double as a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish. 

Can You Freeze Bread Pudding? 

Savory bread pudding is just about at the top of the list when it comes to easy Thanksgiving side dishes, and that is because you can make it ahead! We usually just make it a day ahead and let it sit in the fridge until it’s time to bake, but yes, if you’d like to, you can freeze bread pudding. We’d suggest baking it first, let the mushroom and leek bread pudding cool completely, then wrap it tightly and freeze it. Reheat in a 350º F oven until it is warmed through. It won’t be quite as perfect as if it were fresh, but it’ll still be delicious.

Tools You’ll Need: 

Other Thanksgiving Sides (That Are Delicious Year Round)

Have We Won You Over? 

Are you a savory bread pudding evangelist now? We hope so! Snap a photo of your mushroom and leek bread pudding and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see! Happy eating!

Mushroom & Leek Bread Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients

5 cups (1/2 inch-diced) bread cubes from a rustic country loaf, crusts removed
2 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz pancetta, small diced
2 cups leeks, white and light green parts only, washed, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and 1/4 inch-sliced
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/4 cup medium or dry sherry
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (6 oz), divided

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º fahrenheit. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and onion and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender and onion is translucent. Stir in the mushrooms, tarragon, sherry, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere. Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Stir well and pour into a 2 ½-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup Gruyere and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten