Friday, February 19, 2010

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Leek Bread Pudding

Last night, the lovely ladies from my pilates class got together.

I know, you're thinking, "Evening pilates.  How virtuous!"

Um, let's just say that rather than exercising our cores, we were filling them . . . with a so-delicious-I-can't-stop-eating potluck dinner.  And since we were abandoning the usually virtuous motivation for our meeting, I figured I'd go all out by making a recipe that called for 3 cups of cream, 3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of cheese, and 12 cups of brioche: Thomas Keller's sinful Leek Bread Pudding (from Ad Hoc at Home).

It was heavenly.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Epicurious:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare, soak, and drain 2 cups of leeks (cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices); I used four leeks (just the white and light green parts).  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 4 tablespoons of butter to emulsify, and season with pepper to taste. 

Thomas Keller then tells you to "cover the pan with a parchment lid." Since I have no idea what a parchment lid is, and certainly don't know how to make one, I just used my regular, shiny AllClad lid, and it was fine.  Continue to cook the leeks, 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.  I'd suggest just adding a tablespoon of water no matter what, since the liquid is what ultimately gives the bread pudding its savory leek flavor.

In the meantime, you'll need 12 cups of crustless brioche (I used challah), cut into 1-inch pieces.  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 (and all of the residual buttery, delicious pan liquids) to the bread and toss well, then add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives and 1 teaspoon of thyme.  I used fresh chives but dried thyme because that's what I had on hand.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs.  Then finish the custard mixture by whisking in 3 cups of whole milk, 3 cups of cream (I subbed in half and half), a pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Now comes the fun part: Shred 1 cup of Emmenthaler or Comte cheese.  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.  Then 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.  I also sprinkled an extra teaspoon of finely chopped chives, because I think chives are purty.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling.  FYI: The pudding rises like a souffle in the oven; mine grew by almost two inches!  And it gets gorgeous and bubbly and fills your kitchen with the most amazing smells.  You might want to wear a bib, because you'll probably drool.  And no one wants to eat something you've drooled on.

Seriously.  I checked.

The bread pudding deflates as it cools.  Your stomach will inflate correspondingly as you eat it.

In fact, I should probably go do some exercising right now, because I'm not sure my waistline will bounce back after last night's feast.  In addition to the bread pudding, we had a gorgeous composed salad, Nigella Lawson's Blakean Fish Pie (poached fish and shrimp in a saffron sauce with riced potatoes? yes please!), and a dreamy coconut cake with passionfruit curd that was so good I had to resist the urge to plant my face into it and wear it home.

A core workout, indeed.  We hope to turn this into a regular event.  Any suggestions about what we should make next time?  What are your favorite potluck recipes?


Sugar February 19, 2010 at 5:21 PM  

OMG. Yummmm. We're trying to go to Ad Hoc on Sunday for brunch. I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they serve this!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa February 20, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

@ Sugar: You MUST document your visit to Ad Hoc! I want to hear all the juicy, delicious details.

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