Congratulations to Catherine Wilkinson, the winner of our 2012 Recipe Contest!
Why this recipe? When we first reviewed the submissions, we were immediately intrigued by Catherine's twist on one of our traditional favorites, bread pudding. And, when we prepared her recipe, we were delighted by the burst of flavors that awaited us with every bite. It was a rhapsody to our taste buds: earthy mushrooms, folded into a rich base of cream cheese and Italian sausage, chopped onions, cream, hearty bread cubes and seasonings!
When we notified her that she'd submitted the winning recipe, Catherine sent us the following reply:
What great news to start the week! Thank you so much for choosing my recipe! It's kinda ironic, because my husband and I LOVE Port Orford and really considered leaving Arizona to move there...but alas, we are die-hard Arizona natives and it was too big a leap.
The other irony is that I LOVE mushrooms and cook with them often...but it is hard, as you can imagine, to find forest mushrooms in our state! It has a be a wet summer, followed by perfect fall weather to find any in the high country. It's possible, but rare!
I love that you used white chanterelles! Chanterelles are my personal favorite and I am sure they were perfect in the bread pudding!
Bread pudding is just about the best dessert in the world (to me!), and I thought the basic dessert recipe would be a natural start to make a savory dish with the inclusion of mushrooms, onions, and balsamic vinegar....and it worked! I am so happy you enjoyed it and one of the bonuses of the recipe is that it is easy to make and most ingredients are usually right at hand.
My husband and I live on a ranch in Northern Arizona, and we have 4 kids and 6 very young grandsons! Waiting for a granddaughter! We are avid hikers (always looking for an elusive mushroom!) and campers, and I love to cook and tinker with recipes... I hope that my recipe becomes a favorite of your fans!
We baked our savory pudding in individual bowls.
Savory Forest Mushroom & Sausage Bread Pudding
1 pound ground Italian mild sausage, casings removed if necessary
2 cups chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter PLUS 2 teaspoons, divided
1 1/2 pound assorted fresh or dried wild mushrooms OR domestic button mushrooms, sliced (if using dried, re-constitute in hot water for 20-30 minutes, draining well before use.)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 (10.5 oz) can of beef broth or stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
6 cups hearty (sourdough or whole wheat) bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
8 oz. cream cheese, cut into 3/4 cubes, softened to room temperature
1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to a large plate. Add the onions to skillet, lower heat to medium, and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove onions to plate with sausage and set aside.
2. In the same skillet melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add half the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of the marjoram. Cook over high heat until the mushrooms are browned and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside with the sausage and onions.
3. Repeat with another tablespoon of butter and remaining mushrooms, adding salt and pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of the marjoram. When they are browned, add the first batch of mushrooms and the sausage and onions back into the skillet. Add the balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until liquid evaporates and mixture is a rich brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the beef broth, cream, eggs, egg yolks, thyme and the remaining marjoram. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread and mushroom mixture and stir to incorporate. Let stand for 10 minutes. Gently stir in the cream cheese.
5. With the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter, grease a 9” x 13” baking dish. Pour the bread pudding into the baking dish, and smooth evenly into dish with back of spoon. Bake in preheated oven until browned and firm, about 45 minutes.
Serve 8 as an entree.