The bread pudding is similar in texture to a soufflé or stuffing. The pork and bread pudding both need to be baked at 350°, so start the bread pudding, then add the pork after about 30 minutes. To ensure that both the pork and the pudding brown evenly, switch pans on the oven racks once during baking. Serve with a green salad.
8 ounces French bread or other firm white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded fontina cheese
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
How to Make It
Combine sugar, water, and salt in a large bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add pork; cover and brine 2 hours to overnight in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced fennel, onion, and 2 garlic cloves; cook until golden brown (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup broth; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Combine bread and fennel mixture. Stir in cheese. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While bread pudding bakes, rinse pork and pat dry. Combine fennel seeds, 2 garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; rub evenly over pork.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Place skillet in oven; bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140° (slightly pink). Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve bread pudding with pork.
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I tried just the bread pudding. It was an abject failure. I thought as I prepared it that two whole cans of broth were too much and I was right - it never boiled off even after the full hour and 10 minutes in the oven and I ended up with bread soup mush. That said, however, the taste was actually delicious, reminiscent of french onion soup. I skimmed off the browned bits on top for tonight's dinner, and will attempt to save the rest by adding more bread (toasting it first) and baking it again, maybe for 30 minutes this time. Bread pudding recipes are difficult. Bread varies so much in density that it's hard to get the quantity correct. I went by weight, but my 8 oz of ciabatta wasn't enough volume to soak up that much broth but maybe someone else's 8 oz of french bread would have been. I'll repost if I manage to save the dish tomorrow.
This was my first time making any type of bread pudding and the first time I've used fennel. It turned out great! The bread pudding was really flavorful and the pork was juicy. This is definitely on our make again list.
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