Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leek and Asparagus Bread Pudding

Several days ago, I bought a beautiful loaf of "rustic" bread from Rustica Bakery. And then I promptly forgot all about it. When my brain finally registered this unfortunate oversight, the bread was rock hard and inedible. Blergh!

I despise wasting food (especially food this good - Rustica was named one of the top 10 bread bakeries in America by Bon Appetit Magazine). So, I decided to salvage this stale bread in a savory bread pudding. I've never made a bread pudding before, nor have I ever ordered one in a restaurant (even a sweet dessert version) because it just sounds boring.

I refuse to waste one of my three meals of the day on boring food! So I jazzed up my bread pudding with TONS of springy leeks, asparagus, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. Did you know Pleasant Ridge Reserve has won Best in Show THREE times at the American Cheese Society? I'd read about it a few times and knew if I ever saw it I would be required to buy it. It's a raw cow's milk gruyere made in Wisconsin and it rightfully earns every rave review it gets.

This bread pudding turned out amazing, and is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I know this to be true because I've enjoyed it each way past few days (did you see how huge this was?). And, it would make a superb brunch dish because you can make it the night before and let the bread soak up all the flavors of the veggies and eggs before baking.

How can this NOT be good - it's eggs, bread, green vegetables, and cheese. When you put these good quality components together in almost any form, I guarantee it's gonna be tasty.

Leek and Asparagus Bread Pudding
Serves at least 6 hungry people

1 loaf stale bread, cubed
4 medium leeks, cut into half moons and washed
2 bunches asparagus, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 large eggs
3 cups whole milk (or cream, or half-and-half, or any combination of those)
salt, pepper, and nutmeg
1 cup grated cheese (Pleasant Ridge Reserve if you can find/afford it!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish and fill it halfway up with bread cubes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute your leeks and asparagus in some olive oil or butter and salt and pepper until soft, about 7-8 minutes.

Scoop all your sauteed veggies over your bread and press down so they fit in your dish.

In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and add milk. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper, then some fresh grated nutmeg. Whisk this together well and pour it over your bread and veggies. Use a spatula to press down on the bread to make sure the egg mixture soaks into everything well.

Top with grated cheese, cover and bake for 55 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes or until cheese is all melty and bubbly and a knife inserted in the casserole center comes out clean. Let rest a few minutes (like lasagna) before cutting and serving.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fattoush

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