The first hint of Fall always makes me think of apples. Family was coming into town, so I needed something easy for dinner that I could prepare ahead of time. I didn’t want to be in the kitchen for the entire visit. The grocery stores were starting to carry lots of delicious apple varieties and my mother-in-law, who was also coming to dinner, had an herb garden growing out of control. So using her sage and rosemary, which also reminds me of Fall, and fresh apples, I made this cozy dish. As the fire pit by our table kept the Autumn chill at bay, this bread pudding was just the thing to warm our insides.  Also, I found a fantastic creamy, sharp cheddar and gruyere cheese blend at Trader Joe’s that melts beautifully, but you can substitute your favorite flavor of cheese.

Ingredients

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1 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 large leek- white parts only, sliced thinly
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
3 honey crisp apples – cored, coarsely chopped with peel on
6 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 3/4 cup shredded cheddar & gruyere cheese blend – divided
9 cups 1in cubed day old crusty white bread
Salt and pepper to taste

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Cook sausage in large skillet over med-high heat until browned.  Drain on paper towels reserving about 2 tablespoons of pan drippings and set sausage aside.  Cook sliced leeks in reserved pan drippings over med-high heat until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  Add chopped rosemary and sage after leeks having been cooking for a few minutes, stir well.

Add chopped apples and cook for about 2-3 minutes until just incorporated and slightly warm.  Add sausage back into apple, leek mixture – set mixture aside.

Whisk eggs, milk, cream and 1/2 of the cheese together.  Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl pour mixture over bread cubes stirring well to incorporate – let sit for a few minutes allowing bread to soak up liquid.

Add apple mixture to bread stir well.  Pour into 9×13” greased baking dish and top with remaining cheese.  May be refrigerated overnight at this point.

Cook at 350° for approximately 1 hour or until top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperate.

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