Savory Bread Pudding

Posted: January 26, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, delish | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

After last week’s fried chicken debacle, I felt the need to redeem myself by trying a new recipe.  I was a little nervous, because unfortunately this past week was even worse than the previous, so god only knew how I was going to screw up this time.  Perhaps I could screw up ramen noodles, the easiest food on earth.  Maybe destroy a salad and make it inedible…at this point my life is so ridiculous that I wouldn’t be shocked if a foray into cinnamon toast resulted in the amputation of a toe.  The good news is, it can’t really get worse from here, so I might as well just start assuming that its going to get better.  Which is why I decided to set out on a new adventure entitled: Alyssa tries to make bread pudding for the first time without F-ING it up, burning the building down, or losing a toe.

I’ve been looking at this recipe for a while on epicurious.com for leek bread pudding, which sounds super good.  Although the more I thought about it, it felt like it was kind of missing something, and we all know by now that I can’t just leave well enough alone with a recipe, I have to mess with it.  The first thing I decided to do was to take away some of the ridiculous salt they have you put in as well as some of the butter and make up for it by adding a couple slices of diced pancetta (I KNOW, I add bacon to everything, but seriously how is that bad?).   I also traded out the emmentaler for havarti, which was not entirely based on flavor, rather than price.  In small town Ohio, good and affordable cheeses and breads are kind of difficult to find (I was shocked too), so I have to make do with what I can.  I love havarti because its so creamy and delicious, but I think you could substitute for pretty much any cheese that melts smoothly.

I added the pancetta to the sautee pan with the leeks so that they absorbed all the pancetta-y deliciosity.

raw leeks and pancetta

Make sure you cook the leeks until they are extremely soft.  They should fall apart fairly easily when you press them with a spatula.  Some of them will get a little brown and crispy (same with the pancetta), but the rest should almost melt.  That way they will absorb into the bread with the custard and bring its flavor with it.

cooked leeks and pancetta

I also used a little extra cheese when I was layering, because you really can’t go wrong with cheese.

Luckily for me, this turned out really well and when I pulled it out of the oven I felt like I was on Food Network Challenge transporting my 6 foot tall muppet cake to the table without destroying it, because leave it to me to get through this whole recipe and then drop it on the floor as I lift it the one foot up from the over to the stove top.  Thanks to a steady hand and a prayer to the food gods, I was successful and had this to show for my efforts:

Leek bread puddingI really wish that I could somehow make your computer screen scratch’n'sniff right now because I was salivating as this cooled just smelling it from the living room.  It turned out beautifully, and it is just what I needed to get my mind back on track.  I’m taking it as a sign that since this recipe went so well, things will start to look up soon :)


A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Cranberry-Chipotle Relish

Posted: November 20, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, delish, Johanna, Make-Ahead | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.

Not-Quite-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.

Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry-Chipotle RelishCranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009

The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.

You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)

Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
So technically they're Belgian Sprouts, right?It's not about the chicken.

And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.