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story.lead_photo.caption French onion bread pudding - Photo by Kelly Brant

There's nothing romantic about onion breath, so you'll probably want to save this recipe to make later in the week.

For an easy (it is the last minute, after all) Valentine's Day treat, I suggest whipping up a batch of your sweetheart's favorite cookies or, if you're feeling fancy, dipping strawberries in melted chocolate. (Melt 1 cup chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil in a double-boiler or the microwave. Rinse and thoroughly dry the berries. Dip, chill, enjoy. If your sweetie isn't sweet on berries, pineapple -- be sure to dry thoroughly -- bananas or orange segments work well too.)

French onion soup with savory, caramelized onions swimming in a rich, beefy broth, and a melted cheese-covered toasted baguette cap is comfort food at its best.

This recipe takes all of those flavors and turns them into a luscious bread pudding that makes an excellent dinner or brunch dish.

Despite what you may read elsewhere, onions cannot be properly caramelized in 20 minutes. They can be browned and sweetened, but true caramelized onions take time. Lots of time over low to medium-low heat.

From start to finish, this dish takes a little over 2 hours. To save time, you could cook the onions a couple of days ahead and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

However, I don't recommend assembling the dish and refrigerating it overnight, as the prolonged soak would destroy the texture of the bread and you'd end up with mush.

French Onion Bread Pudding

2 1/4 pounds yellow onions, peeled

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing

Salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme OR leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

3/4 cup beef broth

About 1 pound French or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used 3 La Brea sourdough demi-baguettes)

6 eggs

3 cups whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 to 12 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

Cut onions in half from root to stem. Cut off stem and root ends of each onion. Slice the onions lengthwise. The slices should be thin, but not too thin. Aim for about 1/8 inch. (Onions sliced lengthwise will hold their shape better and cook more evenly.)

In a very large skillet, melt butter over medium-low to low heat. Add onions and about 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently and adjusting heat as necessary, until onions are deep golden brown and completely tender, about 1 hour. Stir in garlic, thyme and beef broth; increase heat to medium and simmer, stirring, until broth is almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until bread is dry, but not browned.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and about 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Add bread cubes and let soak, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish or oven-safe skillet such as cast-iron, with butter. Add half of the bread cubes to the dish. Top bread evenly with half of the onions. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour any remaining egg mixture over all. Bake 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 6 servings.

Food on 02/14/2018

Print Headline: In a savory mood for bread pudding

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