Savory Bread Pudding

Man. Is it just me, or is it really hard to go back to eating normally after Thanksgiving? All I want are cookies.

Alas, I refuse to undo the work I've done all year and nullify my thrice weekly workouts by eating cookies morning, noon and night. Add to that the fact that I've become a part of my company's Wellness Committee, and therefore I. must. resist.

My carb cravings hit full tilt this time of year also, and they eventually become unignorable to the point that I have to give in from time to time, despite my best efforts to ingest main-dish salads every night leading up to Christmas (as the buffalo wings digesting from dinner laugh at that best effort).

Enter bread pudding...but not the sort that would quell my cookie craving. This is a savory bread pudding, which I'd like to think is fairly original and imaginative, but I'm sure I'm not the first to give it a shot. I had leftover Italian bread from my parents' visit over Thanksgiving, as well as half and half and a smattering of good cheeses from the same visit (my Italian father is a Grana Padano snob, while I'm generally content with Parmesan in a tub). Josh had just dried the final sprigs of a hearty sage plant that had survived at least two overnight frosts, so you see, I had no choice.

How do I know when a new dish is a hit? Josh tells me he loves me with his mouth full.

You will need:

2-3 slices bacon (peppered bacon would be sooo goooood)
1 shallot, sliced thinly into rings
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 leaves of chopped sage/2 teaspoons dried sage
4 1/2 cups of French or Italian bread cubes, cut from a loaf and loosely packed into a measuring cup
1 cup mixed grated cheeses (I used Grana Padano, white cheddar and muenster)
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove, crumble, and set aside. In the same pan, cook the shallot until beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sage and cook just until fragrant, about one minute (don't burn the garlic).

In a medium bowl, combine the shallot mixture, bread cubes, cheeses, and bacon. Pour in the cream and stir until everything is moistened. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Transfer to a greased casserole dish and cook for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

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