1 large loaf day-old country bread or sandwich bread, crusts removed and cut into ½-inch cubes
(You will need 8 to 10 ounces of bread cubes)
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
8 ounces bulk hot Italian or breakfast sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces spinach
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces Bellwether Farms Carmody, grated
Combine the milk, pepper and thyme in a large pot. Heat the milk to a boil and remove it from the heat. Let the milk sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse, then remove the thyme sprigs. In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Add a small amount of the hot milk to the yolks, whisking as you add it to avoid curdling the eggs. Add the rest of the milk gradually to the yolks while whisking, then whisk in the heavy cream. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the custard mixture over them, pressing down with a spoon to submerge all of the bread. Allow the bread to soak in the custard while you prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the filling, cook the bulk sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat until it is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the skillet to a plate or bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. Add the diced onion, cooking on medium heat until the onion is golden. Add the olive or vegetable oil and then the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the spinach and the salt and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the cooked sausage back to the skillet and stir to combine evenly. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Stir the grated Carmody into the bread mixture, mixing until the cheese is evenly distributed. Butter a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish and spoon half of the bread mixture into the pan. Spoon the filling evenly over the top of the bread, then spoon the remaining bread mixture on top. Cover the pan tightly with buttered foil and bake the pudding until it is almost set, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil from the pan and return the pudding to the oven. Bake the pudding for 15 to 20 minutes more, until it is completely set and lightly browned on top.