Gruyere can’t be beat for flavor intensity and meltability.
Savory Creole Tomato Bread Pudding
½ pound French bread, torn into 2-inch cubes (about 5-6 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, cut in half
Butter, for greasing the pan
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (½ cup)
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (¼ cup)
1 pound firm, ripe Creole tomatoes, sliced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat milk
Place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F.
Arrange bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, tossing halfway through, until pieces are very dry and lightly toasted, 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, then transfer to a large bowl. (If your bread was stale to begin with, there’s no need to toast the cubes; proceed to the next step.)
Rub the cubes of bread with the cut sides of the garlic halves, then mince all of the garlic and set it aside.
Grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter. Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.
Layer half of the bread cubes in the greased baking dish. Top the bread cubes with half the tomato slices, then sprinkle the tomato slices with salt, pepper and half each of the thyme, rosemary, oregano and remaining garlic. Top with half the cheese, then repeat the layers.
Beat together the eggs and milk. Add the salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and pour egg-milk mixture over the bread and tomato layers. Place pan in preheated oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden, puffy and pulling away from the pan edges.
Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm.