Savory Bay Bread Pudding

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One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding.

Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.

This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)

Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?

the custard base is flavored with salt, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns.

It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.

the leek is optional, but I added it for a boost of alum flavor

Throw it all in a pan and bake.

bay pairs great with potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce…!
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Savory Bay Bread Pudding

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, traditional
Keyword bay, bay leaf, bread pudding, leftovers, savory, savory bay bread pudding, savory bread pudding, stale bread, stuffing, thanksgiving, thanksgiving sides, use what you have
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups bread, chopped into 1" chunks
  • 2 Tbs butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 leek, washed and cut into 1/4" chunks

Instructions

  • Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
  • When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

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Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.

Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

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So there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is, it’s Halloween candy season. The bad news is, it’s Halloween candy season. I don’t know about you, but my boyfriend and I have been having a really difficult time resisting some of our favorite candy bars when we head to the grocery store. Our pantry is currently hosting several half-eaten bags of the stuff.

This isn’t the worst thing we could do for ourselves. (After all, everything in moderation, including moderation, right?) But it also isn’t the best thing either…

So I’ve created a compromise: healthy fat, homemade, easily digested, “gourmet makes” style chocolate nut butter cups. Who’s complaining about this? Absolutely no one, that’s who.

Between you and me, reader, we like to get a little bit fancy. We are worldly and distinguished enough to know the difference between curated, fair trade cacao powder and the market brand stuff. However, because our heads are not too far up our derrières, we still appreciate the occasional gas station peanut butter cup. That’s our sweet spot. Right?

So in an effort to stay true to my sweet tooth roots while honoring how far I’ve come as an eater, I bought organic almond butter, but the kind that has coconut oil added into it in order to make it extra creamy. Mara Natha almond butter is the way to go for this recipe, and I say that as an experienced almond-product-eater. But as always, follow your heart.

First, I mixed together melted coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave and salt. (Honey or sugar would work here too, or your favorite sweetener.) I poured a few tablespoons of this solution into muffin liners and placed these in the freezer for a few minutes. After this, I dolloped in a few healthy spoonfuls of almond butter…

creamy nut butter makes all the difference for these sweet treats

Then I poured more chocolate mixture over the top and put this in the freezer to chill some more!

almost done!

Thirty minutes after you begin, you’ll end up with a treat even Claire Saffitz would be proud to serve!

bet you can’t eat just one

Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Makes 12 cups

  • 1 c melted coconut oil
  • ¾ c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • About 1 c creamy almond butter
  • Coarse sea salt for topping

Line a muffin tin with paper liners and clear out some level space in the freezer.

Whisk together coconut oil, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and transfer to a large liquid measuring cup. Pour about two tablespoons of chocolate mixture into each muffin liner and transfer to the freezer for about 5 minutes. Set leftover chocolate solution aside.

When the chocolate is mostly solid, pull the muffin tin from the freezer and dollop one to two teaspoons of almond butter over the top of each chocolate disk. Pour the rest of the chocolate mixture over the top of the almond butter so that it is entirely covered. 

Return to the freezer for about 5 minutes; when the nut butter cups are thickened but not completely solid, pull from the freezer and sprinkle coarse salt over the top. Return to the freezer for another 510 minutes, or until set. Enjoy as is. Keeps well in fridge or freezer!