Chef Dina

Now available for Bay Area full service catering in conjunction with "A Fork Full of Earth" organic catering, intimate dinner parties and weekly meal preparation.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Savory Bread Pudding

I am sorry to all the gluten-free people out there...but this one, unfortunately, just isn't for you. It may also seem as a bit of an indulgence (for those of us that buy into the low-carb diet, at least)... but certainly a worthwhile one.  Besides, a very wise person once told me to eat all my heaviest foods in the morning to keep me full and use the rest of the day to burn them off!  I'll definitely buy into that.  Luckily, a savory bread pudding is the perfect centerpiece for a hearty brunch buffet.  Easter anyone?
It also makes a great dish for a steak or roast, a roast chicken or turkey...the list goes on. 

You can make this recipe whatever you want it to be. I will certainly give some step by step instructions for the recipe followers out there, but I will also give a guideline for the basic proportions and throw out a few inspirational ideas for those of you that would rather employ a little creativity. This is a wonderful  dish to practice on, much like a quiche. The bread pudding is merely a vehicle for whatever you have in your fridge. 

I have to mention the book, Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman. If you are at all interested in freeing up your creative juices in the kitchen, this book is a great place to start.  He gives the reader ratios for basic recipes, from quick breads to vinaigrettes, allowing a bit of space from the recipe and instills a bit more confidence when playing around with a dish. To me, this is paramount in becoming a decent cook. To be a success in the kitchen is to be able improvise and to use what you already have on hand.  If reading this book doesn't help you achieve that- try working as a sea cook or living on an island....

With that said, here is a basic ratio for a savory bread pudding custard (or use the recipe below and sub out the variable ingredients). This makes a 9x13 pan:

3/4 lb bread, torn 

3 cups milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter

Some tips:

  • Use stale bread
  • While you can make it with any type of bread- save the sprouted whole wheat for your sandwiches and use an enriched bread with a good chew. Challah, brioche, kaiser rolls, french baguette, hell, even hot dog buns are ok. 
  • Let the bread sit in the custard to soak it up for a bit. You can even prep it the night before and bake it off in the morning. 
  • Don't forget to grease the sides of the pans well.
  • Be sure to securely cover the pudding with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking, which will facilitate even cooking and keep the top from drying out. 
This weekend, we made a delicious pudding for a Petite Syrah tasting event in Alameda and it was a hit!  We are lucky to have such an abundance of mushrooms here in Northern California, and plenty of people willing to forage for them. The star of our show was the coveted candy-cap mushroom. 

The candy-cap is one of the more fun fungi I have come across. They have a very strong maple syrup smell and a pleasantly sweet taste to them. They are often used in dessert.  It was the perfect frontman for our savory/sweet bread pudding. We mixed in the mushrooms, some gruyere cheese, onion, a hint of garlic and then topped it with some crispy bacon and finished with a brush of apple-maple reduction. Delish- even the people who gave up bread and bacon for lent were indulging (not sure why anyone would give up bacon for any reason at all...but to each their own). 

Some other yummy combos:
Sausage, mushroom and onion
spinach and artichoke
roasted garlic and leek
gorgonzola and asparagus
...just look in your fridge!

Need a specific recipe? Here ya go:

Savory Bread Pudding 
with spinach, gruyere and shitakes
courtesy of Food to Live By, by Myra Goodman

2 cups stale bread, torn into pieces
1 lb baby spinach
1 cup grated gruyere cheese (4 oz)
2 tbs olive oil or butter
8 oz shitake mushrooms, choppped
2 tbs minced shallot
3 lg eggs
2 cups half and half
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Position rack in lower 1/3 of oven and preheat to 350.  Grease a 9x13" baking pan and spread the bread in it. Wilt all the spinach in a pan and then spread it evenly over the bread cubes. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the spinach. Heat oil in a skillet and sautee the shallot and mushrooms. Add to the bread pan.  Whisk together eggs and half and half and season with salt and pepper. Pour liquid mixture over the bread mixture and sprinkle remaining cheese.  Press down, ensuring all bread is thoroughly saturated. Let stand at least 15 minutes.  Cover and bake 35-45 minutes until puffed and browned (uncover for the last 10-15 minutes). Serve warm. 

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