SAVORY HERBED BREAD PUDDING
1 (1-pound) loaf crusty country-style white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, button, portobello, and stemmed shiitake), thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in very large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return toasted bread cubes to same large bowl.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, and bell pepper. sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and parsley and sage to bread cubes.
Whisk heavy cream, eggs, salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Sprinkle cheese over. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stuffing uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Makes 10 to 12 servings