Leek Bread Pudding

Leek Bread PuddingOver the weekend we had our Cookbook Club dinner. The book we chose was Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller. As you can imagine, the food was not only plentiful but also very, very good.

We had his famous fried chicken, a fig stuffed pork loin that melted in your mouth, a leek bread pudding that should be illegal, Swiss chard that was awesome, and a bevy of other tasty dishes that we will be paying for in miles walked or run.

As good as the food was, the best part was having us all together laughing around the dinner table. As we sat there wondering how we were going to tackle dessert after eating so much, the discussion turned to how thankful we were to have a group of good friends, who truly enjoy each other’s company, and share a real passion for good food. Our group has often remarked that the idea of the Cookbook Club was possibly one of the best ideas my sister ever had, and I whole-heartedly agree. No matter what our schedules are like, The Cookbook Dinner is something that we look forward to, and are loathe to miss–if only because of the company.

In this time of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for the many good things in my life. I am grateful not only for those who are part of my related family, but I am also thankful for the good friends both near and far that make up the family of my heart. Enjoy this season with family, good friends, good wine and, of course, good food!  

Leek Bread Pudding
Adapted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller
Serves 12 as a side dish, 6 to 8 as a main course

2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks (white and light green parts only)
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless Brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
1 tablespoon finely-chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comte or Emmenthaler

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the Leeks
Clean the leeks thoroughly of sand and grit by placing the rounds in a large bowl of tepid water. Swish them around so any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Rinse well and strain. Set the leeks a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. 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 the butter to emulsify, and season with pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a lid and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the leeks are very soft (about 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.

Toast the Bread
Meanwhile, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until dry and pale gold. Leave the oven on.

Prepare the Bread Pudding
Transfer the bread to a large bowl. Add the leeks in the sauce to the bread and toss everything well. Add the chives and thyme.

Lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Assemble the Bread Pudding
Sprinkle ¼ cup of the cheese in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan, and sprinkle with another ¼ cup cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over, and top with another ¼ 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.

Allow the bread to soak for about 15 minutes. Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling

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