After weeks of anticipation, the full thrill of Christmas seems to happen in one short, giddy burst. The festivities zip along with whiplash speed, and by noon you’re ankle deep in wrapping paper and the kids are sliding toward a meltdown amped-up on holiday sweets. While visions of a well-mannered Christmas dinner may dance in your head, attempting to corral the happy chaos can feel pretty Grinch-y. Rather than fight the tumble of excitement, why not feed the fun while it’s happening? Let brunch be the new dinner, and make this savory bread pudding the centerpiece.
A heavenly hybrid of bread-and-butter pudding and French pain perdu, this dish is perfect do-ahead fare. While Santa is busy wrapping the X-Box, a designated elf can easily assemble and refrigerate the unbaked pudding the night before. When Christmas Day dawns, just slip the dish into the oven and bake till it’s custardy and nicely browned. Add a bright citrus salad of blood oranges, navels and mint, a pot of French Roast for the adults and cocoa for the kids (and whipped cream for all), and you’ve got a simply delicious way to celebrate.
For the pudding: (An adaptation of a recipe from chef David Tanis)
- 2 - 8-oz day-old baguettes, cut in 1/2-inch slices
- 6 tablespoons Kerrygold Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 package Kerrygold Skellig Cheese, grated
- 1/3 pound smoked ham, diced
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 4 large eggs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1/4 cup snipped chives, (optional)
- Lightly coat the interior of a rectangular baking dish with butter
- Lightly butter bread slices on both sides
- Place one layer of bread slices in the pan (trim to fit)
- Scatter with 1/2 of the cheese and ham, and chives, if using
- Top with a second layer of bread, ham, cheese and chives
- Whisk the eggs and half-and-half together with salt, pepper and nutmeg
- Pour half-and-half mixture over the bread
- Press down on bread to help submerge and soak up liquid
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (from 2 hours to overnight)
The next day:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bake pudding until the top browns and custard set but still a bit jiggly
- Let cool briefly and serve
Note: This dish can also be assembled and baked immediately – no need to refrigerate.