I love to use different types of sausage for this bread pudding. I recently discovered some wild boar and red wine sausage at our local Los Paisanos family owned butcher on Smith Street. It was an incredible substitution for the pork sausage here.
Makes 12 servings
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced crosswise (roughly one and one-half cups sliced)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound fresh mild Italian sausage (about four links), casings removed
1/2 of a large head of escarole, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly (about two quarts sliced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons water
6 large eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
10 cups (one-inch cubed) French or country-style day- (or two-) old bread
Pour oil into a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and stir often until soft and lightly blonde, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in garlic and crumble sausage into pan. Stir often until meat is no longer pink, eight to 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat if necessary.
Add escarole to sausage mixture in pan and reduce heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and add the two tablespoons of water. Stir until escarole is wilted, about four minutes. Remove pan from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Dijon, salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika until combined. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Stir in one cup Gruyère (reserve the remaining half cup for sprinkling over the top).
When ready to bake, combine the custard and the sausage mixture in a very large mixing bowl. Add the bread cubes and combine well. Let the mixture soak for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours, depending on how dry your bread is. (There should be no “crispy” pieces of bread in the mixture after soaking)
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Scrape mixture into a buttered nine-inch by 13-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the bread pudding with the remaining cheese.
Bake until top is golden and pudding is slightly “pouffed,” about 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. If top is brown after 30 minutes, cover loosely with foil and continue to bake. Serve warm.