Green vegetables and leafy greens are perfect in a moist and tender bread pudding like this. If you decide to branch out from the suggestions here, always make sure the vegetables are cooked so that they don’t exude excess water into the pudding as raw vegetables might. You may also add sausage, bacon, or herbs.
Makes about 6 generous servings
6 cups cubed bread, with or without crusts
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed (see Note)
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
6 ounces Roquefort or other blue-veined cheese, crumbled
3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
One 8- to 9-inch gratin dish or other baking pan, well buttered
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
Scatter the bread cubes on a jellyroll pan and bake for about 15 minutes to dry them.
Meanwhile, wring the water out of the thawed spinach a handful at a time.
Cook the onion in the butter over low heat in a medium sauté pan until it’s soft and translucent. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is no longer watery, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the heavy cream if you’re feeling indulgent and cool slightly. Add the Roquefort.
Whisk the milk with the eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Put the warm bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and fold in half the milk mixture, followed by the spinach mixture. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and pour over the rest of the milk mixture. Let the pudding rest for 10 to 15 minutes before baking.
Bake the pudding until set and the top has browned nicely, 45 to 55 minutes.
Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then serve hot from the baking pan.
Note: To use fresh spinach, rinse 1 pound of baby spinach and put it in a large pan over high heat. Once the water on the spinach starts to give off a little steam, cover the pan and steam the spinach until it’s wilted and cooked through, about 5 minutes, uncovering and checking several times that it isn’t boiling dry. Drain and cool the spinach, then squeeze out and chop.