Thursday, February 24, 2011
Every day, on my way to work, I pass by a Church in Scotch Plains that has a sign on the corner of their property. They post witty little messages on the sign… things like “Give Satan an inch and he’ll become a ruler.” For 4 years, I’ve been chuckling at whatever play on words they’ve posted that week. But at the end of a long snowy winter, their newest thought pretty much sums up the feelings of just about everyone I know: “Whoever’s praying for snow, please stop!”
I usually like winter, but I’m over it this year. Last Friday it was 65 degrees out, before the temperatures dropped again. It was a cruel tease. I saw tiny little spikes of my hyacinths poking through the soil and then it snowed again. The silver lining is that I can still crank up the oven and make lots of yummy comfort food. So that’s what you’ll be seeing here over the next week or so. Things like this lush leek bread pudding and blueberry butter cake and crispy chicken thighs…
But back to the leek bread pudding. It’s from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, a book which continues to be one of my top 5 favorite cookbooks. It's pretty simple to put together and tastes as good if not better leftover. We had it with grilled steaks, but it'd go well with ham, lamb or even pork. My adaptation is below - the original called for whole milk. I didn't miss the extra fat...
Leek Bread Pudding
adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks (white and light green parts only)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless Brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups reduced fat milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comté or Emmentaler
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the leek rounds in a large bowl of tepid water and swish so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Set a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, lift the leeks from the water, drain, and add them to the pan. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. As the leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to medium-low. The leeks will release liquid. Stir in the butter to emulsify, and season with pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a parchment lid, and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the leeks are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If at any point the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in about a tablespoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
Meanwhile, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until dry and pale gold. Transfer to a large bowl. Leave the oven on.
Add the leeks to the bread and toss well, then add the chives and thyme.
Lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over and top with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough of the custard mixture to cover the bread and press gently on the bread so it soaks in the milk. Let soak for about 15 minutes.
Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling.