Category Archives: Spring

Savory Bread Pudding


Savory Bread Pudding With Mushrooms, Leeks, and Canadian Bacon

This dish started with an inspiration from a restaurant here in Chicago that has since closed. Good thing I took good notes during the few times we had breakfast there! The versions they offered were leek, ham, and Gruyere, as well as one with tomato, bacon, and Cheddar. I think the combinations are really just up to your imagination and your tastes.

The base is just the same as any breakfast casserole or strata that I would make – stale or day-old bread cut into cubes, then soaked in a custard mixture. For these, I wanted to make individual servings in ramekins, so I cut the cubes of bread on the small side so that they would be easy to stuff into the dishes. The custard mixture is about one cup of milk (or half-and-half, if you are in a more celebratory than healthy mood) to three eggs. Depending on the amount of bread you have, you can increase or decrease the amount of custard mixture – just make enough to soak the bread completely. Season with salt and pepper as you would scrambled eggs.

I got a little carried away with ingredients, but I just couldn’t resist. I started with some leeks (one large or two small), rinsed them thoroughly (they have a considerable amount of grit since they grow in sandy soil), and cooked them in some olive oil until they began to soften (a little kosher salt helps this process along). I removed those from the pan and sauteed some sliced cremini mushrooms in butter in the same pan, adding a little salt again, along with some freshly ground black pepper and fresh thyme leaves (thyme and mushrooms is one of my favorite combinations). In addition, I had some Canadian bacon on hand that I really wanted to incorporate.

The best way to bring this all together is to cube your bread into a large mixing bowl, pour over the custard, and mix with your hands. That way, you’ll be able to tell if you made enough custard to soak the bread. You can always whip up a little more egg and milk to add to it, if it seems too dry. Then, mix in your vegetables and/or meat and/or cheese in the same manner (hands) to make sure you evenly distribute – just make sure you let anything you precook to cool a bit before adding it to the mix. I used shredded Gruyere here, along with some Fontina that I needed to use up – make sure you add a nice little handful to the top before you put the bread pudding into the oven for some added browned goodness.

If you bake in (buttered) ramekins, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden and bubbly (about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven). If you bake in a (buttered) casserole (like a traditional breakfast strata), it will probably take a little longer; browned and bubbling is the goal.

Springtime Cravings


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I know that I was talking a lot about salads in one of my recent posts and how I love them for the spring, but I still find that I need to dig into heartier (if not lighter) meals when the chill returns to the air.  Luckily, we are seeing fresher and more local vegetables returning to the produce aisles, and that always makes me want to cook with a with an eye toward verdancy.  Yesterday was a prime spring day:  walking in the sun, you felt hints of the sweet warmth of summer, but in the shade, our skins tensed with goosebumps.  That kind of weather makes me want something warming, but fresh tasting, so I might turn to a pasta primavera, a side of succotash next to a salmon filet, or a simple risotto studded with edamame, sweet peas, fava beans, and asparagus.    Knowing how to make a good risotto is clutch for many occasions.  Generally, it doesn’t take much forethought to make a good risotto, since a good base will be complimented by anything you might put into it, especially if your ingredients are fresh.  An additional perk is that, if you use vegetable stock, it is a good vegetarian meal, in case you need one on hand.  Basically, the rule is to always have arborio rice, stock, onion, garlic, and parmesan cheese on hand in your house, which I really don’t think is far from the reality of most kitchens.  What you add to the mix beyond that is really up to you.  For me, it often depends on what I have in the fridge or freezer, or what I just bought at the market.  Here is my Basic Risotto.

The First Signs of Spring


Contrary to the advice of our local weather forecasters, I ventured out into the morning air wearing no wool and only a jean jacket for protection against the elements.  To be sure, I am glad I did so.  Though only a few days ago, I saw some wet flurries, it appears that spring is returning to the frigid Midwest.

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