Make a birthday dinner fit for a king or a queen with this Happy Birthday Entree – Chicken, Artichoke, and Three Cheese Bread Pudding! This savory meal will surprise your special someone and make their special day even better.
Usually when I develop my themed cuisine, I start with an image of what I want my food to look like, then I figure out what ingredients will work best to create that look. This time around, I developed the recipe first then decided how to turn it into themed food. I know that adding “Happy Birthday” to the top of what is essentially a casserole isn’t nearly as clever as my Crescent Dough Carrots or Sleeping Bag Wraps, but after making this recipe, I just had to share it with you because it really is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Bits of sauteed chicken breasts and marinated artichokes are nestled in between layers of creamy custard soaked pillows of Challah bread and the whole thing is enveloped in rich melted cheese. Yum.
I’ve made this recipe three times in the past few months and everyone I’ve served it to has loved it. A while back I came across a recipe for artichoke bread pudding and thought I’d give it a try, but didn’t like all of the ingredients in the dish, so I looked around and found a few other similar recipes. Instead of trying any one of the recipes the way it was written, I took what I thought were the best ideas from three recipes, added ingredients that I wanted, and made my dish. I don’t always have success when I do this, but this time the recipe was perfect on the first try.
I decided to make it a second time to serve at a friend’s birthday party, and wanted to decorate it up a bit. I liked the rustic look of this dish and wanted to compliment it’s natural tan, yellow, green, and white colors so I simply opted to cut letters out of a brown bread to spell out “Happy Birthday” which I nestled on top of the layer of cheese. It looked great, but being it was made for a party, I wasn’t about to make everyone wait for me to take pictures to post here. So, two weeks later I made it again. You’d think at this point my husband and I would be a bit tired of eating this, but no, not the case at all. As a matter of fact, I made it during his birthday week, so the special sentiment on the dish was perfectly appropriate. His favorite meal is turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie, so that’s what I served on his actual birthday, but eating this entire bread pudding ourselves over the course of several days, made it seem like we were celebrating his special day all week long.
Chicken, Artichoke, and Three Cheese Bread Pudding (serves 8-12)
1 (16 ounce) loaf Challah bread, cut into 1” cubes
6 tablespoons butter, melted (reserve a small amount to brush 9×13 dish)
7-12 slices whole wheat or whole grain bread
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 shallot, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, freshly grated
4 oz. Asiago Cheese, freshly grated
2 oz. Farmer’s Cheese (I used Muenster cheese once and it worked great too), grated
2 (14 ounce jars) marinated artichokes, well drained and coarsely chopped
16 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
2 cups whole or 2% milk
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
Special Equipment Needed:
3 baking sheets
aluminum foil, optional
alphabet cookie cutters
9″ x 13″ glass baking dish
Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Optional: line baking sheets with foil for easier clean up.
Cut challah bread into 1” cubes. Spread into an even layer on two baking sheets. Pour about 2 tablespoons of butter over each baking sheet and toss the bread cubes to coat. Use alphabet cookie cutters to cut the letters to spell “Happy Birthday” out of wheat bread. Discard, eat, or compost the scraps. Brush melted butter over both sides of the cut out bread pieces. Place on a baking sheet.
Bake the bread cubes and bread letters for 45-60 minutes, flipping bread over halfway through, until the bread is dried and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until caramelized. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in wine and stir. Increase heat to medium high and cook until wine reduces by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Toss the three grated cheeses together.
Butter a 9”x13” baking dish. Sprinkle one half of the toasted bread cubes in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle on half of the the artichokes, chicken and cheese. Top with the remaining bread cubes, artichokes, chicken, and cheese.
Arrange the cut out letters on top of the cheese layer. Whisk together the eggs, milk, whipping cream, salt, pepper and the reduced wine mixture. Pour evenly over the layers of bread, artichoke, chicken, and cheese, making sure to pour some over each of the letters.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set a piece of cardboard cut to fit inside the baking dish (or use a small cutting board or another smaller baking dish) on top of the bread pudding. Then add some weight (a few large jars or cans) in order to compress the bread pudding, so that all of the bread soaks up the custard. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take the bread pudding from the refrigerator and remove weights and plastic wrap. The letters will look flatter and may need to be straightened out a bit. Bake for 55-65 minutes until cheese is bubbly and bread becomes golden brown. Serve hot.