Ghetto Quiche (aka Savory Bread Pudding)

Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2006

After New Year’s Eve I had both leftover bread and leftover vegetables. Along with some leftover Christmas ham, I made what I’m now dubbing “Ghetto Quiche”. Is it nutritious? Hell no. Though I’ve made notes about where you can make modifications to make it a bit less heart-attack inducing.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings (I ended up with 16)

1 (1-pound) loaf crusty country-style white bread (I also included some olive bread, which was great)
1/4 cup olive oil (could use a spritzer to apply and cut down on quantity)
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme, sage and oregano
2 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock (The recipe originally called for butter here, even I have to draw the line somewhere.)
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup diced ham

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (you could easily sub regular milk, though reduce quantity slightly)
8 large eggs (could cut down to two full eggs and 1 1/2 cups egg white)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (You could, conceivably leave out the cheese, I don’t know why you’d ever want to though.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cut bread with crust into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in very large bowl. Add oil (or spritz once in the pan), herbs, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Heat stock in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, and bell pepper. sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and ham to bread cubes.

Whisk heavy cream (or milk), eggs, salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread, ham and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Sprinkle cheese over. Let sit one hour so custard mixture can soak into bread cubes (could also let sit overnight and bake for breakfast).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake stuffing uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes.