Category Archives: Weekends

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.

Battle Soufflé


 

I get it.

Soufflés are scary.  They are.

Pop culture ruined the soufflé for us with images of deflated cooks serving deflated dishes to deflated guests. Well, I am here to change that. Contrary to public opinion, soufflés are easy, delicious, and do not need to be perfect. However, the world (and the French) have made us American home cooks believe that we are merely setting ourselves up for failure if we try to make a soufflé of any kind. Here’s the best advice I can give you on this matter:

1. Practice on your loved ones. The pizza delivery man is only a phone call away.

2. Follow a good recipe to a tee the first time (the Joy of Cooking has several). Once you are comfortable with the technique, add variations to your heart’s content.

3. All of the ingredients you put into the soufflé taste good together, so even if it isn’t perfectly beautiful, it will be delicious.

The pic above is a souffle I made with Gruyere cheese and frozen spinach, which turned out quite well, I must say, in spite of being a little overcooked. I find savory soufflés more appealing that sweet ones, but anyone who knows me will not be surprised by this. Try making one for a weekend lunch and serve it with a mixed green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette. A chilled, crisp, un-oaked Chardonnay would be a most welcome accompaniment.

Feel free to post questions here before you start. Knowledge is power in battle soufflé.

Cocktail Hour: Apples to Apples


I admit that I’ve tried a few “apple-tinis.”
You know, those unnaturally green cocktails made with artificially flavored sour apple schnapps and vodka, garnished with a maraschino cherry?  Any time I’ve tried one, I’ve always thought, “why am I not just eating a sour apple Jolly Rancher candy instead?”  I didn’t set out to make a better, more natural version of this cocktail, but I think I ended up doing so. Continue reading