I started making savory bread puddings right around the time I started making bread. The bread felt so precious that I didn’t want to lose a bit of it. Now I keep a bag in my freezer for ends and other lost bits, and those are saved for bread crumbs, bread puddings, and stratas. I love the combination here: salty sausage, grassy chard, creamy ricotta, and sour rye. It’s a perfect hearty dinner—and a good brunch, too. The sausage contributes quite a bit to the flavor here, so choose your own adventure. A plain and mellow sausage is good, but a spicy andouille will make it pop, or a sweet apple sausage will push it almost to the dessert side. Also, a note on salt and pepper: The flavor of this pudding varies greatly, depending on the flavor of the bread, sausage, and ricotta. I find it doesn’t usually need any additional salt besides what’s in the ingredients, but if one of your components is more bland, you might want to add a bit. Serve with salt and pepper alongside, too, so each diner can do as he or she pleases.
Eating From the Ground Up
by Alana Chernila
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking dish or equivalent casserole with butter.
2. Scatter the bread into the prepared dish. Whisk together the milk and eggs in a large bowl, and pour the milk mixture over the bread to soak while you cook the vegetables.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the Swiss chard stems and cook, stirring, until the stems are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the Swiss chard leaves and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, lifting the lid to toss the greens once or twice, until the greens are wilted but still bright green, 2 more minutes. Drain off any liquid from the skillet.
4. Fold the sausage, ricotta, half of the Parmesan, and the cooked greens into the bread mixture. Top with the remaining Parmesan.
5. Bake, uncovered, until the center doesn’t weep when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Reprinted from Eating from the Ground Up. Copyright © 2018 by Alana Chernila. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.