1 tablespoon butter for greasing baking dish
olive oil for sautéing
1 cup yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green bell peppers, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red bell peppers roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced plus more for garnish
3 links Andouille or Louisiana sausage, chopped
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-3/4 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
6 cups day old French or Italian bread*
8 ounces grated Fontina or smoky Gouda cheese (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons melted butter
If baking right away, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.
Add 2 – 3 teaspoons olive oil to a medium skillet. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Add the onions, bell peppers, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, cook for another minute, and then remove from the heat. Transfer to a bowl or plate and allow to the vegetables to cool.
Heat the skillet (you can reuse the vegetable skillet) over medium high heat. Add 1-2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the sausage on paper towels and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, cream, 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine. Fold in the bread cubes and let sit for 15 minutes. Add the cooked sausage, the onion mixture, and the Fontina (or Gouda) cheese. Stir gently to combine all of the ingredients. Pour into the prepared baking dish, cover with aluminum foil.
At this point, you can bake the bread pudding in the preheated oven until the center is just set, about 50 to 55 minutes or you can refrigerate for up to 1 day and then bake. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Meanwhile, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, melted butter, and remaining 3/4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning. Uncover the bread pudding and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top. Return to the oven, increase the heat to 375 degrees F and bake uncovered until the bread pudding is completely set in the center, puffed, and golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Garnish with a few tablespoons minced parsley.
Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
This dish is also great reheated in the microwave!
For a South of the Border Twist, substitute Chorizo for the Cajun Sausage and top with a dollop of salsa. Substitute a combination of Jack and Cheddar Cheese for the Fontina or Gouda. Use a Mexican seasoning blend if you wish.
For a Country style dish, substitute country breakfast sausage (links or break up bulk sausage) for the Cajun Sausage and Cheddar Cheese for the Fontina or Gouda. Use Cajun seasoning or season with chopped herbs.