|(I wish that little chive wasn't sticking out like a flag...)|
Trust me: this bread pudding doesn't need bourbon to be wicked good.
This recipe comes to you third-hand. I adapted mine from Deb's at smitten kitchen, and she adapted hers from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. So feel free to adapt it again to suit your own tastes.
For instance, I think bacon in place of the ham would be divine (I happened to have ham on hand). It is also equally as good with no meat at all, as a vegetarian entry or savory side dish. And Deb makes hers in a loaf pan, to emphasize the "bread" part of "bread pudding", but I think that's just weird. (Sorry, girl!)
Ham and Leek Bread Pudding (adapted from smitten kitchen and Thomas Keller)
1 cup leeks cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
Kosher or coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups 1-inch-cubed crusty bread (stale or not)
1/2 - 2/3 cup finely diced cooked ham
1/2 - 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 cups whole milk, cream or half-and-half or a combination thereof
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded Emmanthaler, Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add leeks, chives and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the egg and egg yolks, then whisk in milk or cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons shredded cheese in bottom of a greased 9" x 9" (or similarly sized) pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.
Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about an hour.
Note: This is a half-sized version of Keller's recipe. Just double all the ingredients and bake in a 9" x 13" pan if you need to feed more than four adults.