I'm a huge fan of breakfast casseroles: they're perfect for feeding a group of houseguests and they just seem extra fancy. Very brunchy.
And I also love bread pudding: the dense custard is so hearty and satisfying, whether you're making a sweet pudding for dessert or a less sweet one for breakfast.
So what if you crossed a breakfast casserole with a bread pudding?
You'd end up with this savory sausage and apple bread pudding, which is equally as good for brunch as it is for dinner, depending on the ingredients you choose.
Since I had planned it for brunch, I opted for a sweeter maple sausage, although plain ground pork would well, too. (One of my favorite things about living in Vermont is that you can find local maple sausage just about everywhere.) If you'd prefer to have your bread pudding for dinner, substitute a mild Italian sausage and a really sharp cheddar cheese.
One thing you can't skip is the apple -- whether you like Granny Smith, Macintosh, Honey Crisp or Pink Lady, the apple adds the awesomesauce to this bread pudding recipe.
The apples I used actually had provenance. Last week, I attended the funeral of my dad's cousin Anna, who was a larger-than-life, kind, generous woman. She was an avid crafter, quilter and baker, and her love of using apples in her baking earned her the nickname "Apple Annie." As a tribute to their mother, her daughters, my cousins, had a large basket of apples at the funeral and urged everyone who attended to take an apple that day as a way of remembering their mother.
I turned my apples into this bread pudding as a way of paying tribute to Anna and her appreciation for how food can comfort and bring people together. With a hat tip to her generous giving spirit, I'm sharing it with you and asking you to share it with others as well.
Are you a fan of savory bread puddings? What's your favorite flavor combination? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.
Savory Sausage and Apple Bread Pudding (inspired by Cooking Light)
8 ounces sweet maple sausage
2 apples, cored and chopped (don't bother to peel them)
1 small onion, choppped
2 cups skim milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces sturdy (preferably day-old) Italian bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through (about 6-8 minutes). Add the apple and onion, cover and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly and then whisk in the milk, 1/2 cup of the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the sausage mixture and the bread and stir to combine (I find this is easiest to do with my hands, to make sure the bread gets saturated). Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until browned and set.