I am a big big fan of savory bread pudding, especially on cold winter nights. The toasty, crunchy bites of the bread on the top and corners, and the custardy delicious middle. Ultimate comfort food. With a long baking time, bread pudding is not exactly feasible on a weeknight. But I figured out a way to make it work. You can prepare all the ingredients one night, and do the assembly and baking the next night!
This bread pudding has my favorite winter vegetable, fennel, and every one's favorite non-vegetable, bacon! I also added some black garlic, which I had for the first time a week ago. Black garlic is really sweet, and almost dried fruit-like. I thought to add it because raisins worked so well in another savory bread pudding I made. And yes, I have also posted a fennel bread pudding recipe on here in the past. I told you, these are some of my favorite things, the fennels and the bread puddings.
Fennel Bacon Bread Pudding
5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
1 large sweet onion, quartered and sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs, quartered and sliced
small handful fennel fronds, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt & pepper
7-8 cloves black garlic, chopped
1 lb. loaf of french bread, cubed and lightly toasted
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
2 cups heavy cream
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt & pepper
Cook the bacon until slightly crisp. Set aside on a paper towel. Cook the onions in about 3 Tablespoons of the bacon grease until opaque and starting to brown. Add in the fennel and garlic, season with the white pepper, nutmeg and salt & pepper, cook until soft and opaque and starting to brown. Add in black garlic and cook another minute or so. Add bacon to vegetables.
Gently combine the vegetable/bacon mixture with the bread cubes.
Butter a 9"x13" baking dish. Sprinkle half of the Gruyere on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the bread cube-vegetable mixture in the dish, distributing evenly. Beat the eggs, cream, milk, thyme, salt & pepper together in a large bowl. Slowly pour the liquid over the bread cubes. Smoosh the bread cubes down a bit to make sure they are all soaked with some of the liquid. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Bake at 400ºF for 1.5 hours, adding the rest of the cheese to the top about an hour in. Serve warm.