I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Breakfast Served All Day Long

I've never really been a huge fan of breakfast foods. In my opinion, the perfect breakfast is served not before 10am and consists of a freshly baked muffin and fresh fruit. Sure, I've been known to eat a pancake or two, maybe a waffle every now and again but it seems like after I eat such items I'm hungry within an hour and I stay hungry all day no matter what I eat.

When I first started my catering business, my menu was loaded with my personal favorites - things that I like to cook and things that I like to eat. One day, while visiting and helping out in the kitchen, my mother asked why I didn't make a particular dish and I answered that it was because I didn't like it. "Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that nobody else does either," she said. The opposite of that statement rang true after I submitted my first quote for an upscale dinner party. The client commented that I must own a goat farm because almost every item on the menu had goat cheese incorporated into it. I lurve me some goat cheese...heart, heart. The client, however, wasn't too fond of it. Lesson mother is always right.

So I decided to focus and expand upon my breakfast catering offerings. We offer your basic breakfast biscuits, burritos, fruit, and muffins. I have an egg casserole and a hashbrown casserole, but I wanted to filter in another selection or two. I've had this recipe in my computer file for a really long time so this week I blew the dust off the hard drive, printed it out, and went to it. I automatically assumed that I wouldn't like it, but tried to approach it with an open research-and-development state of mind. I don't think this is something that I could spring out of bed and devour, but since Captain Sturm and I ate it for dinner with a green salad, it stood a better chance of impressing me.

The recipe met my basic catering criteria of needing to be easy to assemble, using versatile ingredients, and nice presentation of finished product. And I will admit that it also passed the taste test. I'll post the recipe as it was written and then tell you what ingredients that I used....

Savory Bread Pudding

Here's a "master" recipe for a dish that can be made for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper. You can invent any combination of ingredients for the filling, according to your taste, or according to what leftovers you have in the refrigerator (or choose from the ones listed). Make it simple or complex, homey or elegant. The best part is that the whole thing can be assembled the day before, and refrigerated until you're ready to bake it.
Makes a 2 quart casserole or a 9x13 baking dish, or eight individual (8 ounce) baking dishes

The Bread:
12 thick slices (about 3/4-inch thick)
crust may be on or trimmed off - as you prefer
any interesting bread will do: egg, sourdough, olive, wheat, etc.
Bread should be slightly stale OR may be sliced and baked at 300 degrees until lightly browned - about 15 minutes - to oven-dry

The Custard:
3 cups, milk (or cream or sour cream or creme fraiche - or combination)
6 whole (large) eggs OR 3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
Salt, pepper
Fresh or dried herbs
Pinch nutmeg (if cheese is used in filling)
1 T. Dijon mustard - if desired
OPTIONAL: an additional 1/4-1/2 cup liquid such as wine or flavorful broth - which compliments the recipe

The Filling:
Choose any combination of the following (or other) filling ingredients
Onions: up to 2 cups, thin sliced or chopped, sauteed until soft
Garlic: up to 4 cloves, sauteed with onions (or may be roasted)
Mushrooms: up to 1 1/2 pounds, sliced and sauteed
Cheese: up to 1 pound, grated, may be mixture of more than one kind
Bacon: up to 8 slices, cooked and crumbled
Ham or cooked sausage: up to 1 1/2 pounds, sliced or chopped, OR corned beef, pastrami, cooked seafood, cooked poultry or meat

The Method:
Generously butter a 2-quart ovenproof casserole, or a 9x13 baking dish, or 8 individual oven-proof dishes.
Slice the bread into thick (about 3/4") slices. (If oven drying, place slices on a cookie sheet, in a 300 degree oven until lightly browned, and allow to cool.)
Butter the bread slices on one side, and cut each into 4 quarters.
Arrange half the bread in the bottom of the baking dish.
Sprinkle one half of the filling ingredients of your choice over the bread.

Arrange the remaining bread over the first half of the filling ingredients, then top with the remaining filling ingredients. (Note: If you are using cheese, end the layering with a cheese layer, for attractive presentation.)
Whisk the custard ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and pour custard mixture over the bread and filling layers in the baking dish. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes to allow custard to soak into the bread.
NOTE: Mixture may be baked immediately (after 30 minutes standing), or may be refrigerated for several hours or overnight before baking.
Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes (10 minutes less for individual baking dishes) or until puffed and golden (a knife, inserted near the center of the casserole should come out clean).
Allow the finished casserole to stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

Whew! That's a long recipe, isn't it? Don't let it scare you because it's not as complicated as it looks. Here's what I did....I cleaned out the refrigerator and tossed it all into this casserole and baked it. Really. I had some white bread and some wheat bread that I oven dried. Then, I uncovered some plain yogurt lurking on a shelf and tossed it in with the custard ingredients. My filling was composed of bacon, ham, onions, garlic and a combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and smoked maple flavored white cheddar cheese. It sat at room temp for about 40 minutes and although my photo is less than pretty, it baked up beautifully. Add it to your breakfast, brunch, or dinner repertoire and you won't be disappointed!

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