Holiday entertaining for a crowd with a minimum of fuss

Artichoke and Mushroom Bread Pudding is satisfying any time of day. For the busy holiday period we’re entering, prepare this the night before. Then bake in the morning for your guests or family.

By Betty Gordon

© 2016 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Increasingly busy days and holiday entertaining are on a collision course as we head into the waning weeks of 2016. Don’t give in to the temptation to purchase store-made dishes, especially when you can make this savory bread pudding a day in advance. Then just bake and serve.

Sure, you’re tired from the prep for your Thanksgiving meal and the last thing you want to do is head back into the kitchen. Likely your refrigerator is already groaning with leftovers.

If so, wait a few days and then dive into this satisfying crowd-pleaser. It’s worth the effort.

This dish is also sometimes called a strata because of the layers of bread, cheese, eggs and vegetables. No matter what you call it, don’t be surprised if your guests request the recipe.

It can be enjoyed any time of day. For an elegant breakfast or brunch, add a fresh fruit salad and orange juice (or your juice of choice). For lunch or dinner, serve with a mixed green side salad and a glass of your favorite wine.

Think how lovely this will look as your family gathers around the table Christmas morning. Or how it will charm your friends on the buffet at your New Year’s Eve party.

The recipe adapts well, so tailor it to your palate.

I suspect substituting cream or half-and-half for the milk will make it even richer, though I don’t think that’s necessary.

If you don’t like green onions, use diced sweet onions such as Vidalia.

The jalapeño Jack cheese is not overpoweringly spicy. But feel free to use shredded Gruyère or Jarlsberg, or any similar cheese that melts well.

The bread pudding will puff up as it bakes, like a soufflé. Likewise, it will deflate as it cools. It’s equally delicious hot or at room temperature.

Some people don’t like aluminum foil touching their food, and if you’re in that category, place a piece of parchment paper loosely on top before sealing tightly with foil.

Covered in the refrigerator, the bread pudding will keep three to four days. Reheated, it tastes almost as good as freshly made.

You can see why the dish is sometimes called a strata, with the bread holding its shape on the bottom layer, topped with cheese, artichokes, green onions and sliced button mushrooms.


Artichoke and Mushroom Bread Pudding

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling

Serves: 8 as a main course

6 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 1/2 cups regular or low-fat milk

1 cup sliced raw mushrooms

1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, well drained and coarsely chopped

4 green onions, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 slices sourdough, white or egg bread (sliced 1/2-inch thick)

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded jalapeño Jack cheese (or regular Jack cheese with 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño)

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

To make the pudding: In a medium bowl, lightly mix eggs, whites and milk. Stir in mushrooms, artichokes, onions, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Remove crusts from bread. Place in baking dish, cutting slices as needed to fit. Sprinkle with cheese. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight.

To bake: Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake pudding 65 to 75 minutes, or until puffed and lightly brown.

Adapted from “Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays: Complete Menus, Rituals, and Party-Planning Ideas for Every Holiday of the Year” by Marlene Sorosky in collaboration with Joanne Neuman and Debbie Shahvar (William Morrow and Co., 1997, $27)