Monday, July 24, 2017

Recipe of the Month: Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding

As the end of July approached, we realized that once again, the clock was ticking for us to come up with a new Recipe of the Month. I had several recipes that I'd marked in cookbooks or pulled out of magazines, but all of them would require ingredients we didn't have, so Brian decided he'd just go searching online for a dish that could be made with what we had on hand. That would allow him to make it, and me to blog about it, this weekend, rather than pushing that deadline right down to the last minute.

We had some leeks and mushrooms in the fridge, so Brian decided to search for for leek and mushroom dishes. Many of these were soups, which we deemed too hot for the weather, or pasta dishes, which we thought were a little too simple to really count as a new recipe. But eventually he landed on this Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding recipe, which looked perfect. We already had all the ingredients (with a few minor substitutions), and it looked, at a cursory glance, like it could be made in about an hour and a half. So if we started early enough, we'd be able to fix it in time for a 5pm dinner on Saturday and still make it to a baseball game in Trenton at 7pm.

Unfortunately, when Brian started work on the recipe on Saturday afternoon, he noticed a few steps in the recipe he'd overlooked before. The pudding didn't just have to bake for 70 to 80 minutes; it required another 20 minutes after that to brown, and another 15 to 20 minutes after that to cool. All told, it would take more time to prepare than we had before we needed to leave for the game. So he set aside that recipe for Sunday and fixed a tried-and-true dish that took only 20 minutes to prepare.

On Sunday, he made sure to get started on the bread pudding by mid-afternoon, knowing that we'd have to eat around 5pm yet again to make it to an early role-playing game session. Yet even as he was working on it, he realized that there were still more steps in the recipe he'd overlooked; for instance, the ingredients were supposed to sit out for a good half-hour to let the bread soak up the milk before the pudding went into the oven. By this time, he'd already done enough prep work to commit himself to the dish, but if he stuck to the recipe, by the time it was done we wouldn't have any time to eat it. So he ended up making some alterations to the recipe on the fly to get it done on time.

Since I've never tasted the dish in its original form, I can't say for sure that it tastes just as good after these adjustments, but I can say that it still tastes plenty good. Even though he baked it at a higher temperature and left out the extra soaking time, it was plenty moist, and his substitution of whole wheat bread (which was what we had) for "hearty white bread" gave it plenty of body. And the substitution of Monterey Jack cheese for the "Gruyère, Baby Swiss, or Emmenthaler" the recipe recommended was probably an improvement, as the milder cheese allowed the savory flavors of the mushrooms and leeks to take center stage.

All in all, this is a dish I'd certainly be willing to have again, though I must admit that even in its revised form, it's still rather time-consuming. In future, I might like to experiment with making it in the Crock Pot, so it could cook unattended over the course of the day...though I'm not sure how we could do that without forgoing the final browning step, and it would be a pity to lose that nice golden crust. But even if we have to keep the recipe in its current form, it's worth hanging on to for those lazy winter weekends (when we don't have a ballgame or a role-playing game to rush out to).

Here's Brian's revised version of the recipe:
Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding 
4 cups whole wheat bread, cut into 1/2” cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, diced
½ lb. white button mushrooms, sliced
1½ cups milk (nonfat)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 large eggs
½ tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4-6 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese 
Prepare a greased 8” x 8” casserole dish. 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or a silicone baking mat) and spread bread cubes out on it.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until cubes are slightly browned. 
Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 325 degrees F. 
Saute the leeks in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the leeks are soft and slightly browned.  Remove from skillet, add another 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and saute the mushrooms until browned. 
In a bowl, beat eggs and add milk, parsley, salt, and cheese. 
In another bowl, toss toasted bread cubes with melted butter.  Add leeks, mushrooms, and egg mixture and mix carefully.  Pour into greased casserole dish.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to sit for five minutes. 
Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees F and 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. 
Remove foil and allow to bake for an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove from oven when the top is browned and the pudding is baked through. 
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