Savory bread pudding is perfect for easy entertaining, because the dish can be prepared the night before and simply popped into the oven at the last minute. To serve this many people, you’ll need two large casseroles at least 2 inches deep; a 2-quart soufflé dish can serve as one of them.
This recipe halves perfectly to serve just 6.
2 large loaves (1 pound each) day-old French, Italian, or country-style bread
4 cups torn or very coarsely chopped arugula
12 ounces Gruyère or Swiss cheese, shredded (about 6 cups)
16 eggs, preferably organic
5 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Trim off as much of the crust from the bread as you can easily. Cut the bread into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes. Let stand for several hours or overnight to dry out.
Divide about one-third of the bread cubes between two 14-inch oval casseroles, 9 × 12-inch baking dishes, or 2-quart soufflé dishes. Scatter half the arugula and one-third of the cheese over the bread, dividing evenly between the two dishes. Cover with half the remaining bread. Then layer on the remaining arugula and half the remaining cheese. Top with the rest of the bread.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, half-and-half, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne. Pour over the bread in the casseroles; tip the dishes gently to allow the custard to penetrate all over. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and dot with the butter. The recipe should be prepared in advance to this point. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 325°F. Bake the pudding, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until set throughout and light brown on top, about 30 minutes longer. The pudding is best served hot or warm, but it holds up at room temperature.