Before we moved ourselves here to the Midwest, we lived in a little town on the Central Coast of California, just South of Santa Cruz. One of our favorite weekend things to do was to drive up the coast to Pescadero and stop in at Arcangeli’s Grocery for their still-warm-out-of-the-oven artichoke garlic bread, and eat the entire loaf on our drive back down the coast . Words cannot describe how good this stuff is, but I will tell you that we have had it shipped here and still talk about it as though it was a member of the family left behind in the move.
All that to say that when I came across this recipe for asparagus bread pudding, yes, you read that right, asparagus bread pudding, it sounded lovely and I was drawn to make it immediately. But as I was saving the recipe to my computer, I accidentally typed artichoke bread pudding, which, upon reflection, had to have been my subconscious prodding me to change course.
It didn’t take much prodding, I’ll tell you. As soon as I saw what I had typed, my mind conjured up images of that warm artichoke bread, fragrant with garlic and herbs, and I tucked my asparagus away for another meal, grabbed some artichoke hearts and got this done.
So glad I did that. Oh my ever lovin’ goodness, was this ever incredible…thick bread puffed with milk and eggs, melted fontina, romano and asiago cheeses, fresh herbs, garlic, and, of course, those lovely artichoke hearts nestled in there. I guess that’s about all I have to say about this, except perhaps you should consider making it. Soon.
Artichoke Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle
12 to 16 thick slices of dry bread
2 1/2 to 3 cups milk
2 1/2 cups of canned or frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced (if using artichokes)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley and tarragon; or sage, thyme and marjoram)
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
4 ounces fontina cheese, large grates
4 ounces asiago cheese, large grates
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small bits
INSTRUCTIONS: Place the bread in a single layer in a shallow dish. Pour 2 1/2 cups milk over the top. Let soak until the bread has absorbed the milk and becomes soft, about 30 minutes. Press the bread slices to extract the milk. Measure the milk; you should have 1/2 cup. If not, add milk to make 1/2 cup. Set aside.
Heat a small amount of olive oil or butter in a small skillet and saute the sliced garlic until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Do not let it brown. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 3-quart mold - a souffle dish works well. Beat together the eggs, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup milk until well blended.
Set aside a few of the artichoke slices to use for the top. Layer one-third of the bread in the prepared dish. Top the bread layer with half of the remaining artichoke slices, sprinkle with the sliced garlic and then half of the mixed herbs, and sprinkle one-third of each of the cheeses over that. Repeat the layers, using half of the remaining bread, all of the remaining artichokes and herbs, and half of the remaining cheese. Arrange the remaining bread on top, strew the remaining cheese over it, and garnish with the reserved artichoke slices. Pour the milk-egg mixture over all, then dot with the butter.
Bake until the top is crusty brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8
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