French Onion Bread Pudding

Some dishes are so versatile, they can play a role in every meal of the day. Whether you are looking for a classy morning star for your breakfast or brunch, a generous lunch option to have alongside salads, or an elegant side dish to serve with seared steaks or roasted pork, this savory bread pudding is where it's at. Inspired by the flavors of French onion soup, the basics of a bread pudding or strata are paired with caramelized onion and melted cheese.

You can use a wide variety of onions. Those with higher sugar content (think vidalia onions) will caramelize more quickly than those with lower sugar content (think yellow onions), but they all have enough sugar to caramelize. If you are impatient, you can add a teaspoon or so of white sugar to speed the process up, but letting nature take its course will give you the best results. Be patient and reap the rewards!

I'm also a fan of mixing cheeses for a dish like this. Butterkäse lives up to its name and is rich and buttery and perfect for melting. The smoked gouda enhances the flavor profile of the bread pudding and tends to make my family smile. Various types of Swiss cheese and even sharper cow and sheep milk cheeses can also work beautifully. Experiment and find out what works for you.

One thing I would highly recommend serving this dish with is a chilled glass of the dry white wine you use to make it. You do use wine in cooking that you'd also drink, right? The dry wine helps cut the richness of the dish and tends to pair with other foods you might be serving with it (think salads, fruit, roasted pork, etc.). Besides, this is a slightly involved recipe and you deserve to sit down at the end of the process and enjoy it right!

French Onion Bread Pudding

  • 3 T. butter
  • 2 lb. thinly sliced onions (I used a combination of red and yellow onions)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ dry white wine
  • 1 large loaf bread, cut into 1" cubes (I used an Italian sesame loaf)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 ½ c. milk
  • 2 T. smooth mustard (I used blue cheese mustard
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ c. grated cheese (I used a combination of butterkäse and smoked gouda)

In a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently (reduce the heat to medium-low if the onions begin to brown too much) until fully soft and caramelized around the edges. This will take about a half hour to do correctly. Be patient and stir the onions every few minutes. When you have 5-10 minutes left in your caramelizing process, add the garlic and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and lightly golden in color and the garlic is fragrant, but not dark.

While the onions are caramelizing, toast the bread cubes. Lay them evenly over a baking sheet and toast for 8-12 minutes in a 350° F oven or until crisp on the outside, but not browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

In a large glass bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. Carefully pour about half the mixture onto the cooled baking pan with the bread cubes and allow the cubes to soak up the egg mixture for about 10 minutes.

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and transfer about half of the egg-soaked bread cubes to the bottom of the pan. Carefully arrange half of the caramelized onions over the cubes in the pan and then about half the grated cheese over the onions. Repeat this step with the rest of the bread cubes and onions. Pour the remaining egg mixture evenly into the pan and then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the pan.

Bake in a 350° F oven for 45 minutes or until the egg is set, the edges of the bread cubes are lightly browned, and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes