Monday, January 27, 2014

Savory Bread Pudding

Day 58

My husband, daughter, and I had the opportunity to start 2014 with a mini-adventure. Although he had been skiing for years, Doug was excited to introduce Tate and I to the wonders of the slopes. Thus began our plan for a visit to spend time with some dear friends who had recently moved from the East Coast to the mountains of Utah.

The weekend before the Sundance Film Festival, we traveled to Park City, Utah. Our friends met us at the airport late on the night of our arrival, and after a good night’s sleep at 6000 feet and lots of bottled water for adequate high-altitude hydration, we embarked on a day of local tourism. From impressive ice castles, to mountain views, to monuments commemorating the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, to quaint shops in Park City, and finally to the Mormon Temple and downtown Salt Lake, we toured our hearts out.

At the end of our second day, we stopped by the ski resort to procure our ski accoutrements and to prepare for the next morning’s adventure.  Tate and I were apprehensive, so my husband treated us to ski lessons designed strictly for those of us who have never even been near a ski resort. The lessons were aptly named Never, Ever. With preparations complete, the morning for skiing arrived before we knew it, and the five of us spent the day on very different parts of the slopes—Doug and his friends on advanced trails and Tate and I on the bunny hill.
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2014

     As an aside, if you’re interested in learning more about our frustrating and somewhat laughable introduction to “fresh powder”, you might want to check out the full story from my personal memoir and essay collection. Just click here to read it. 

After a day of skis and cushy lodge chairs, our friends escorted us home, where they had prepared a delectable dinner of pulled chicken barbeque on fresh yeast slider rolls, homemade cole slaw, and an enticingly rich pineapple bread pudding. The meal was comforting after a day in the cold, and it offered an element of nostalgia for our friend whose mother used to make the casserole for her when she was a child. For me, it was also a bit nostalgic because it reminded me of my grandmother’s bread pudding, made from a recipe handed-down from my great-grandmother. In fact, I spent a great deal of time that night, lying in bed with achy legs and arms, remembering how much my father enjoyed that bread pudding whenever Grandma made it. 

The next morning, for breakfast, we awoke to another incredible bread pudding; this time, with pecans and brown sugar. It was perfectly delightful with piping hot coffee and butter. The flavor was part cinnamon bun and part egg custard, and the texture was similar to moist sponge cake, which made for an almost Southern-comfort breakfast, of sorts. 

After two bread puddings and many memories of childhood, I began to think about the similarities between bread pudding and Thanksgiving stuffing. The key difference is, of course, that one is sweet and one is savory. Another difference is that bread puddings have custard bases rather than broth and butter. Once we returned home from our wonderful visit with our Utah friends, pondering the idea of savory bread puddings became a temporary obsession.  I searched through recipes to find one that had very similar custard ingredients to Grandma’s, but without the sweetness. After some trial and error dishes, I found one on the Bon Appétit website. I adjusted some of the dry ingredients to suit my tastes, and you can definitely do the same to your own recipe as long as the bread to wet ingredient ratio stays the same. 

Our clan liked this dish so much that we agreed it might have to replace our traditional Thanksgiving stuffing this year. It makes a nice side dish for poultry, served aside dark leafy greens and carrots. I think you’ll agree that it’s a winning combination of flavors and textures. 

So, thanks to Bon Appétit magazine, and I wish you a bon appétit whenever you try it! 

Savory Bread Pudding*

1 lb. crusty country-style French loaf (about 10 loosely packed cups), cubed and left to stale for a day or two
¼ cup good olive oil
4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 large cloves garlic, minced

¾ stick of butter
1 lb. baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped (or an assorted mix of mushrooms)
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely diced red pepper
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
8 large eggs
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish. Place bread cubes in a very large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic. Toss to coat. Spread cubes on large rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return toasted bread cubes to large bowl.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. 

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, red pepper, and celery. Sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and chopped parsley to bread cubes. 

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add heavy cream, salt, and ground pepper, continuing to whisk.  Mix custard into bread and vegetable medley. Transfer bread pudding to prepared dish. Sprinkle cheese over. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. 
Bake uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into squares or scooping into mini-ramekins for easy serving or reheating. 

Note: This bread pudding can be prepared and refrigerated, before baking, up to a day ahead.

*Recipe originally named Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese and was slightly modified here. Courtesy of Bon Appétit website. 

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