The first time I try a recipe, I do my best to follow it exactly. That way, I have a benchmark. If the recipe was a winner, then I have it all ready for the next time I want to make it. If it was less than successful, I can make the decision whether or not to try it again with some alterations, or give up completely.
That’s what happened with this recipe. First time around, I followed the recipe and I was unimpressed. I should have liked it. It’s bread pudding, which I already know I like. And there’s cheese and eggs and leeks and cream… all foods I like. So what happened? The dish was not super-flavoured and I may have over-toasted the bread.
The second time I made it, I used almost twice as many leeks than were called for, cut back on the amount of cream and used milk instead, did not stress about finding a “Pullman loaf” of bread (substituted cubed baguette) and took the opportunity to use some of the bits of cheese I had in the refrigerator: smoked cheddar, mozzarella and something called raclette cheese. All in equal amounts, adding up to about 1/2 cup of cheese more than the recipe called for. If I’d had chives, I would have used them but this time: a green onion.
And it was fantastic! Much more flavourful than the first time. I will make this again, now that I’ve altered the recipe to suit me.
Here’s how it went.
Got the leeks.
Here’s visual rationale for including the instructions: “wash leeks thoroughly” in every recipe with leeks as an ingredient ever.
Rinsed and drained leeks.
Leeks softening in a fry pan.
While the leeks are getting soft, cubed the bread.
Also grated the cheese.
When the leeks were softened, added the butter.
Toasted bread cubes.
Still waiting on the leeks. Time to chop the thyme.
Got the green onion.
Minced the green onion.
Put the toasted bread cubes, leeks, green onion and thyme in a big bowl.
Tossed them together.
Got some eggs.
Whisked the eggs, then added the milk and cream.
Eggs, milk, salt and pepper plus nutmeg.
Began building the bread pudding. First layer: cheese.
Then added a layer of bread.
Another layer of cheese.
Finished the layers, then poured the liquid over.
After 15 minutes of leaving this alone so the bread could soak up the the milk and cream and all, topped the whole thing with the last of the cheese.
Leek Bread Pudding.
A tasty portion of Leek Bread Pudding.
The original recipe:
Leek Bread Pudding
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)
3-1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch-cubed baguette
1 finely minced green onion
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
5 cups 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 cups shredded smoked cheddar, mozzarella and raclette 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°F. 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 of the 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 of the cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 of the 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.