2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
2 cups thinly sliced mixed mushrooms such as oyster, shiitake, portobello, white
7 to 8 cups cubed French or Italian bread (one large baguette)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Few grates of fresh nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or cilantro, chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh pepper
1 teaspoon paprika or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
1. Heat the oil, add the onion, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, until translucent and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook until mushrooms have exuded their juices and browned.
2. Butter well a large casserole or gratin dish (3 to 4 quart). Fill the bottom of the dish with ½ of the bread cubes. Spoon one half of the mushroom-onion mixture on top of the bread and sprinkle with 1 cup of the grated cheddar. Add the remaining bread, layer with the remaining mushrooms and the remaining cheese.
3. Beat the eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, herb of choice, salt, and peppers together until combined. Pour this custard evenly over all the layers in the baking dish. Cover and let sit overnight (at least 4 hours).
4. At least an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese (if using) on top of the bread mixture and bake in a hot oven for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing or scooping from the serving dish.
Accompany with a green salad, Braised Leeks, or sliced fruit.
Per serving: 332 calories, 11 grams saturated fat, 218 milligrams cholesterol, 12.5 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 661 milligrams sodium, trace fiber.