leek & fennel bread pudding

leek and fennel title pageSavory bread puddings can render a few funny looks, but this Leek and Fennel Bread Pudding couldn’t be a more appropriate addition to a family style dinner (I made it both for Thanksgiving and Christmas).  The first time I made it, I followed Thomas Keller’s recipe to the very last sage leaf.  And trust me, it did the trick.  I let the leeks steam under a parchment lid, carefully toasted my brioche (Whole Foods makes an excellent one if you don’t have an extra day to make this recipe), and used his exact measurements.  But we did notice a couple of improvements to be made- namely that there could have been more leeks.  So the second time I made this recipe, I doubled the leeks.  And why not?  Leeks are a delicious little savory treat, perfect with the gruyere and cream.  And as an added level of substance in an otherwise decadent cream-filled bread pudding, I threw in a bulb of sliced fennel.  I also tried using a challah as an alternative to the brioche.  Both are sweet and eggy and somehow dense and light at the same time, so both worked for this bread pudding.  The following recipe is a combination of my two attempts.

You’ll need:

12 cups brioche or challah, sliced into one inch cubes

4 large leeks

1 bulb fennel

4 tbs butter

3 eggs

3 cups milk

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

Salt, to season

Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice your brioche or challah into one inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet.  Pop into the oven and let toast for 20 minutes.

IMG_1861

While the bread is toasting, slice your leeks and fennel.  You only want to use the white part of the leeks and the bulb of the fennel.  Slice into 1/3 inch thick slices.  Place the leeks and fennel into a large bowl and cover with water.  Let them soak for a couple minutes to allow the sediment to fall out into the bottom of the bowl (they are, after all, root veggies).

IMG_1862

Lift the vegetables out of the water and place them into a large pan over medium heat.  The water will release from the leeks and allow them to start steaming.  After 5 minutes, add the butter and stir.

IMG_1863

Create a parchment lid (the second time around, I didn’t have parchment so I just used a lid- the world didn’t end) and set on top of the mixture.  Reduce heat to medium low, add a bit of salt, and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes more.

parchment lid

While the leeks are simmering, whisk eggs, milk, and cream in a large bowl to create the custard.

custard YUM

When the custard is made and the brioche is toasted and the leeks are soft, it’s time to combine them all.  Toss the leek mixture into the bread cubes and add ½ cup of shredded gruyere cheese.  Pour out into a 9×13 baking dish and pour 2/3 of the custard over the mixture.  Press down to be sure that the bread soaks up the custard, then let sit for 10 minutes.
IMG_1868

Pour the remaining mixture over the bread and add the rest of the gruyere.  Sprinkle with salt and pop into the oven for 80-90 minutes. 
IMG_1869

 

Gingered Parsnip & Carrot Soup

As survivors of many a hurricane & tropical storm, these Texans weren’t terribly concerned about the Frankenstorm Sandy that threatened the East Coast.  But still, a girl’s gotta eat.  This is a recipe from my Boston Boy’s mama- she made it for Yom Kippur dinner last year and I would have seriously slurped up the whole pot if the rest of dinner hadn’t been so yummy (well, and because slurping up a whole pot of soup in front of your new boyfriend’s parents is pretty inappropriate.)

Full disclosure: I made this soup 2 days ago, also, for my house’s portion of an 11th street progressive dinner.  And then I made it again because it was so good.  It was the perfect amount for ~10 people at a dinner party or 2 people for lunch one day and breakfast the next morning when your eggs have somehow turned gross overnight.

you’ll need:

2 tbs olive oil, divided

1 lb carrots

1 lb parsnips

2 1/2 cups diced onion

1 tbs fresh ground ginger

4 cups stock (I used veggie stock the first time b/c my fellow HungryTexan is a veggietarian)

2 cups water

1/4 cup cream (omit if you’d like. BB’s mama doesn’t use this, but I couldn’t help myself)

1/2 cup thinly sliced parsnip to garnish

1 tbs chives to garnish

s&p, to taste

Start by dicing up your onion (I used red onion because that’s what i always had). Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven and let your onions simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes until soft.  While the onions are getting happy, peel and chop your carrots and parsnips into ~1 in slices.  Add your parsnips, carrots, ginger, stock, and water.  Bring this to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and cover.  Let this simmer for ~40 minutes until all of the veggies are tender.  Remove the pot from the heat for about 10 minutes.  Then blend using a food processor or your new adorable green emulsion blender.  I chose the latter 🙂  Season the soup with salt and pepper, to your taste.

And to top the soup, heat 1 tbs olive oil in a small saucepan and crisp up the thinly sliced parsnips until golden.  Finish with chives.

But wait!  You’re not quite finished yet.  I made some tasty gruyere croutons (which translated to a gruyere grilled cheese for our lunches).  Layer slices of Gruyere cheese between two thin slices of french bread or ciabatta and bake at 375 for ~15 minutes or until toasty.  Cut them into halves or into croutons.

Stay Dry!
xoxo,

The HungryTexans