It’s Meatless Monday, people! And I don’t really mean to be throwing another bread pudding at you so soon after this one, but, honestly, I just couldn’t resist. You would not have forgiven me if I had waited another day to share this with you. And you are so going to want to make this – Meatless Monday or not.
As I mentioned a few days ago, we’re BIG bread pudding people around here. Mostly we’re into the dessert variety, but this one is savory… it’s creamy, it’s cheesy, it’s crunchy on top and best of all, it’s totally awesomely good. How could it not be with layers of focaccia chunks, goat cheese and cherry tomatoes all enveloped in a luscious creamy custard and topped with a crispy parmesan crust.
I made my own foccacia, which I have not blogged yet, but I promise I will do soon. If you can find foccacia in your market, then this recipe will be a snap. If you can’t find focaccia, then I don’t see why any good artisan-type bread wouldn’t work.
But I usually try to keep to my rule which is to follow a recipe exactly the first time I make it. I mean, how else are you going to know what works and what doesn’t? But the whole time I was following my rule here, I was thinking of the possibilities. Like, how ‘bout a drizzle of basil pesto on top of the tomato/goat cheese layer? Ooooooh. Or you could also layer in some roasted red peppers or spinach. Or switch out the goat cheese for something like manchego or even brie. But then this came out of the oven, and it was so beautiful, and the aromas of the goat cheese, tomato and eggy baked bread about knocked me over. And then that first bite just melted in my mouth and I knew that I would never, ever want to change a thing with this recipe. Oh my ever lovin’ goodness. The husband concurred… don’t mess with it.
There are so many applications for a savory bread pudding like this. With a crisp green salad you would have a delectable Meatless Monday meal. But my favorite application might be to set out two forks, place this between you and someone you love and just dive in.
Tomato, Goat Cheese and Focaccia Bread Pudding
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + olive oil for baking dish
1/2 pound plain or green onion focaccia
1/3 pound fresh, rindless goat cheese
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Rub bottom and sides of a 8-inch squre or round baking dish with olive oil.
Cut focaccia into 1-inch cubes. Toss focaccia with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then put half the focaccia in the prepared dish. Dot with goat cheese, using it all, then scatter tomatoes over the cheese. Top with the remaining focaccia.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs well, then add the milk, salt and several grinds of pepper and whisk until blended. Pour over the focaccia. With the back of a fork, lightly tamp down the focaccia cubes so they soak up some liquid. Sprinkle the surface evenly with Parmesan. Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.
To bake, remove the dish from the refrigerator and place it, still covered with foil, in a cold oven. Set the oven at 350º. Bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes more. Cool 20 minutes before slicing.
If it's even possible, I have to tell you that the re-heated leftovers of this bread pudding might even be better than that first experience. You know how sometimes when you reheat some dishes they look a little anemic and sad? Not this. No, it retains its beauty and even intensifies the flavors. Oh, this is so very good.