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David Tanis loves good bread. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to it in his new cookbook, One Good Dish. And while there are a few recipes calling for a fresh loaf, he finds most of his creativity in using older, staler loaves. This fact may sound strange, but I find it incredibly useful. I often have an "aged" end or two of bread that I bought with the good intentions of demolishing every slice in a single day, but eventually succumbed to the reality of an unpredictable diet. Take this ham and Gruyère bread pudding. It's a quick, easy recipe that makes use of some of the most easily staled bread (a baguette), transforming it from a doorstop to a creamy, rich, custardy meal. Cubes of smoked ham and two layers of melty Gruyère don't hurt either.
Why I picked this recipe: I often have stale bread around the house; why not turn it into a casserole of comfort?
What worked: Tanis's the ham, cheese, and butter bread pudding is like the demure French ham sandwich's loud, boisterous cousin—in a good way.
What didn't: I would have actually preferred a little less cheese (more like 4 ounces). I thought its presence slightly overwhelmed the rest of the dish.
Suggested tweaks: Tanis suggests adding a handful of steamed spinach or chard to the custard mix and/or sprinkling on a few different minced herbs with the scallions.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.