This is a recipe I made for a weekend away with some friends (at a condo on an island in Lake Erie: idyllic). It's a mainly local recipe, made in the first flush of eating-local-challenge madness; I remember I apologized because several things (garlic, spices, cheeses) weren't local, to the puzzlement of the friends, whom I hadn't yet tried to convert.
I got the idea for a nonsweet bread pudding from Stephencooks--his recipe (which looked divine) was a Roasted Tomato Bread Pudding. And then when I was looking for things to make for the weekend away, I came across another savory pudding in a Deborah Madison cookbook I love--Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmer's Markets.
It was very well received by the friends, and so here is my version of Deborah Madison's bread pudding, adjusted somewhat to my taste and to what was available.
Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding
1 1-pound loaf of good white bread
2 to 3 cups milk
1 pound asparagus
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 to 1 pound mushrooms (I used crimini that I got at the market, not wild)
1/3 cup chopped greens or herbs (I used some dandelion greens out of my yard; DM recommended parsley; basil would probably be good, too)
4 large eggs
1 tbs dried tarragon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups grated cheese (DM says Fontina or Gruyere; I used a mix of French feta, mozzarella, a bit of Swiss and some Parmesan--what I had left in the fridge)
Pull or cut the bread into bite-size pieces. If it isn't stale, put it in a 250 degree oven for abt half an hour, until it's crispish, but not hard. Then pour the milk over it in a bowl and let it sit.
Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil. Add mushrooms and greens and let it go a little longer. Break the tough ends of the asparagus and cut it into about 1-2 inch lenghths. Boil some water and throw the asparagus in for abt a minute--take out and run cold water over it.
Beat the eggs, and add the tarragon and nutmeg to them. Mix the bread/milk mixture with the eggs, onion-mushroom mixture, asparagus, and the grated cheese, put in a casserole dish and pop it into the oven. Bake at 350 for abt 45 minutes. It's done when there's no liquid slopping around when you tilt the dish.
It was really good--subtly cheesy and savory, with the earthy mushrooms and bright,vegetal asparagus tastes coming together. I plan to make it again, substituting various things around--broccoli for asparagus, different cheeses, adding maybe sundried tomatoes, etc. It was even better as leftovers--some of us had it for breakfast the next day.