This recipe originated from one I tried several years ago on some unsuspecting out of town guests. During that effort, whole onions were stuffed with breadcrumbs and some cheese and ended up being pretty dry and lacking in the flavor department. Our guests were polite about the whole thing, but I noticed much of this item being pushed around on the plate without being actually eaten. Back to the drawing board to tackle the problem areas, and I think we now have a winner. Whole onions are roasted (super easy but a little time consuming), then cooled, hollowed out and filled with a savory bread pudding that is creamy and cheesy and full of mushrooms, roasted onion and tons of herbs. And because we can never have too much bread pudding, the stuffed onions sit on a nice bed of the bread pudding to boot. This makes an awesome side dish, and one you might want to think about over the holidays. It does take some time and probably needs to be done over two days, but the pieces come together pretty quickly. However…. if you’d rather skip the whole onion stuffing idea, the bread pudding is delicious on its own. The completed dish can be done in advance a day or two before dinner, so all that’s left is to pop it in the oven and serve.
If you decide to go the stuffed onion route with this recipe, I’d suggest one-half onion per person. Even though the onions are hollowed out, there is still plenty in there and you don’t want to overwhelm anybody. The reserved insides of the onions are chopped and added to the bread pudding custard along with sautéed mushrooms. In the photos, I used both Chanterelle and Criminis just for the fun of it, but choose your own favorite. Also, if you want to add some of your favorite browned sausage or or other cooked vegetable you think might be good, go for it!
Another important note is to make sure you aren’t stingy with the herbs because there is a lot of bread in there, and it needs something for added personality. I added three heaping tablespoons of assorted dried herbs and then tossed in some fresh thyme too. This guy is also going to need more salt than you think for the same reason herbs are required. The end result is ridiculously rich and creamy tasting, but the bonus is there is no cream or half and half involved. I’m not saying you can’t substitute either for the whole milk, but it’s not necessary.
Scoop it onto your plate and dive right in….I’m thinking if there is any gravy left on the thanksgiving table, it would be happy to land on this bread pudding. Happy fall everyone!
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- 8 medium sized sweet onions (if you are going the onion stuffing route. If not, substitute 1-2 cups of diced white or yellow onion)
- 6 cups sliced cremini or white mushrooms
- 6 cups chanterelle mushrooms (NOTE: feel free to use additional cremini mushrooms if you don’t want to or can’t get your hands on any chanterelles)
- 1, 1-pound loaf of French bread (the soft kind you find in the supermarket works just fine in this)
- 2 cups Jarlsberg or other Swiss cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes, plus additional cheese for sprinkling on top
- 3 cups of whole milk (NOTE: If you want to get really crazy, use ½ and ½)
- 6 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons of your favorite combination of dried herbs. I used sage, garlic powder, onion powder, chives, thyme, marjoram and rosemary, but it’s totally up to you.
- FOR THE ONIONS
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut a little bit off of the bottom, and about ½ inch off the top of each onion. Peel off the outer brown skin.
- Arrange the onions in a large baking dish or a cookie sheet that has been lined with foil – both should be sprayed with cooking spray.
- Brush the onions with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt.
- Roast until onions are soft in the middle – this will take about an hour and a half but start checking at about the hour mark. Sometimes the outer layer or two gets dark and starts to separate from the rest of the onion, but this is not a big deal. Just peel them off once everything cools down.
- When baked through, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- When onions have cooled, gently remove the center parts of the onions. This takes a little patience, but I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to push the bottom of the onion up through the center. Just go slowly and you’ll be fine. Remember – you are smarter than the onion!! When all is said and done you should have no more than 2 outside layers of onion remaining.
- Roughly dice the center onion pieces you have removed and set aside.
- FOR THE SAVORY BREAD PUDDING
- Cut the French bread into about 1-inch pieces. You can either set them on a baking sheet and let them dry out overnight, or you can toast them for about 30 minutes in a 325-degree oven, whichever works best for you.
- Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, add the mushroom and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then sauté the mushrooms until they have given up all of their liquid and are cooked through. NOTE: This will most likely take two batches – there are a lot of mushrooms to deal with here. When they have finished cooking, the 12 cups of sliced mushrooms will be reduced to about 4 cups. Set aside.
- NOTE: If you are not stuffing whole onions, now is the time to sauté your diced onion until softened. Then set aside.
- In a medium size bowl, stir together the milk, eggs, cubed cheese, salt, pepper and herbs.
- Now for the fun part: In a huge bowl (I like to mix this up in a dishpan or roasting pan because it gives you a lot more room to move around in and make sure everything is blended well, so if you’ve got one you might give this trick a try), combine the cubed bread, diced onions, mushrooms, and cubed cheese. Pour the milk & egg mixture over the top and start mixing. Keep working at it until everything is well coated with the milk & egg concoction. If it feels a little too dry, don’t be afraid to add more milk.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- Get out a baking dish that is big enough to hold all of the onions, and deep enough to allow you to put an inch or two of bread pudding in the bottom.
- Spoon enough bread pudding mix into each onion ‘shell’ to go just a little bit over the top – this will expand when cooking so don’t get too crazy.
- Spray the baking dish with cooking spray, and spoon in about 1 inch or so of the bread pudding.
- Set the stuffed onions on top of the bread pudding mixture, and sprinkle to tops of the onion with some grated Swiss cheese or any other favorite cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees until the bread pudding is set. This should take about 45 minutes but start checking at 30 minutes.
- Serve hot out of the oven.