Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tasting my new Veggie garden

Our rental home has these great raised veggie beds. So I'm trying to take advantage of the things they have already planted. I had a loaf of bread that Mike received on the way of of a restaurant he ate at. And we have a bunch of leeks, chives and thyme in the garden. Not sure when leeks are ready to be harvested but thought I'd pluck out a few and see.

I served it with a roasted chicken. The crunch parts were my favorite. I used the Cooks Illustrated technique from their Strata recipe where you put weights on top to ensure that all bread has sucked up the liquids overnight. I baked it in a souffle dish and weighed it down with a pot filled with water.

Leek Bread Pudding recipe

Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 2009)

Time: 2 1/2 hours (1 hour for preparation and 1 1/2 hours for baking)

2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper

12 cups 1-inch-cubed crustless brioche or Pullman loaf

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 large eggs

3 cups whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup shredded Comté or Emmenthaler cheese.

1. Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.

3. Add leeks, chives and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.

4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded cheese in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.

5. Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt and remaining cheese. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot.

Yield: 12 servings as a side dish.