Savory Bay Bread Pudding

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…!

Savory Bay Bread Pudding

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, traditional

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.
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

Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.

“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”

Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.

And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.

Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.

This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…

To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.

frangipane ingredients

Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:

as you can see i beat this by hand, but feel free to use and electric or stand mixer if that’s what makes you happy : )

(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)

As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.

before
after. i used quince jelly because i had it, but the original recipe calls for red currant.

By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.

are you enticed yet? : )

Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French, traditional

Ingredients
  

Sugar Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 7 Tbs chilled butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Poached Pears

  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly (or other preserves with mild flavor)

Instructions
 

Sugar Crust

  • Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
  • Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frangipane

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
  • Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
  • Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Poached Pears

  • Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
  • Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.

Tart Assembly

  • Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
  • Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I’m sure we can all agree that the circumstances surrounding this holiday are less than ideal. It’s challenging for families to come together, connect, and share food due to travel limitations. It seems most folks are celebrating on a smaller scale than usual, reducing their menu for the day if they’re even observing the holiday at all–at least, this is what I’ve observed on my food-saturated social media feed.

If you, too, are cooking for two, or four, or even just yourself–you may consider a roast chicken as your centerpiece rather than larger fowl.

Of all the chickens I have ever roasted in my life (and I love roast chicken!) this buttermilk chicken from Samin Nosrat is the juiciest, most chicken-y roast chicken I have ever had the sublime pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It really is about quality of ingredients because there are so few: take care to use a fine grain salt, like a sea salt or kosher salt, good buttermilk with few additives (or make your own like I do!) and a chicken that you can wager, with reasonable certainty, lived a good life. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel pretty certain that one can taste the difference in quality meat.

If you treat this recipe with the respect it deserves by investing in quality ingredients, you will be rewarded with beautiful results. For me, this was a life-changing, eureka moment, holy-smokes-this-is-it recipe for roast chicken. (You should probably buy yourself a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat if you haven’t already.)

I like to keep the ingredients fairly simple in accordance with the original recipe. The lemon, herbs, and half an onion featured are optional, but delicious, additions.

this chicken marinated for two days in the fridge, though samin recommends 24 hours. i have found that two days does not negatively impact the chicken at all by drying it out w salt exposure–in fact, two days is kind of my sweet spot for this recipe, taking care to rotate the chicken every 8-12 hours, or whenever it crosses my mind: whichever comes first.

After I drained the chicken of buttermilk, I tucked the thyme under the skin near the breast meat, and stuffed the cavity with half of a small onion, a small bundle of sage, and a squeezed lemon half. The legs get tied together with twine.

samin instructs us to remove excess buttermilk from the skin by “scraping it off”; i have never found this to be a necessary step. if you hold the chicken so the cavity is facing over the sink or garbage can and wait patiently for a few seconds, the extra moisture should wick away. any remaining milk solids contributed to that delicious, delicious browning on the skin–and tell me, why would one want to prevent this from happening??

The first time I tried this recipe, I was slightly daunted by the recipes–shall we say, specific–roasting instructions. However, I followed them to a T and, I have to say the results made a believer out of me. Just try it. It will work. Trust me. (If you can’t trust me, trust Samin.)

i removed the chicken as soon as the drumstick juices ran clear and the breast meat clocked in at 155°F–for best browning results, use a shallow cast iron to house your chicken.

After you pick clean the carcass with the most delicious chicken you’ve had, maybe ever, save the bones/carcass to make stock. It’s soup season, after all…

Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Aromatics

Based on Samin Nosrat's recipe in NYT Cooking.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Resting Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, keto, paleo, traditional

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 4 lb chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • fine grain salt
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced into the cavity and shoved inside, optional
  • fresh sage, optional
  • fresh thyme, optional

Instructions
 

  • One to two days before you cook the chicken, generously season it with salt, and rub into the skin. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not be shocked if you go through 2-3 Tablespoons, bearing in mind what is not absorbed by the bird initially will dissolve into the buttermilk as it marinates.
  • If using any aromatics like fresh herbs, onion, lemon, garlic, etc, tuck under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken now.
  • Place chicken into a large zip top bag and seal the buttermilk inside. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning the bag whenever you remember; ideally this is every 8-12 hours.
  • An hour and 15 minutes before you plan to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge to thaw. After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 425°F and take care your rack is centered in your oven.
  • Drain the chicken of the buttermilk over a sink or garbage can. When the chicken is completely drained, place it in a shallow cast iron pan. Slide the cast iron to the very back of the stove and into one corner of the oven, so that legs are pointing in the corner. Bake this way for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes has passed, reduced oven heat to 400°F, and continue roasting 10 more minutes. Then, rotate chicken so that it is in the other backmost corner, with legs facing in the opposite corner. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is a beautiful brown on top, juices pricked from where the drumstick meets the carcass run clear, or until the breast meat clocks in at 155°F-165°F.
  • If chicken is getting too crispy as you wait for it to reach temperature, feel free to cover the top with foil.
  • Let bird rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy.
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