I am finally coming out of my Thanksgiving food coma. After a week of cleaning out the system, so to speak, eating mainly vegan fare, I am feeling better... a little lighter and less tired.
And honestly, kind of hungry again!
The cold outside makes me want to hunker in and bake. This recipe is pure comfort food on frigid days like this. Perfect for the holidays, this tasty and hearty side dish is delicious, and pairs well with most mains. It's vegetarian as well. Or, serve it with a salad and have it as a main course, like we usually do at home. It's quite filling and really hard not to have seconds.
I originally found the recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Ad Hoc at Home ( by Thomas Keller) and slightly adapted it.
Have you ever really looked at a leek? Perhaps I've gotten a little carried away with the leek photos but for some reason they are especially beautiful to me right now with their range of colors and symmetry and layers.
The flavor of a leek is more subtle and sweet than an onion. Like onions, scallions and garlic, leeks too are an allium and belong to the Amaryllidaceae family -a family of blooming bulbs related to the lovely Amaryllis. Their latin name is Allium Porrum.
The darker parts are great for stock, no need to waste any part.
As you will discover, between the layers, there are flecks of dirt. Sometimes even clumps. The thing about leeks is..... they can be dirty. But that's OK.
We too have a little dirt in between the goodness, don't we?
No need to get all hung up about it.
An easy way to remove the dirt is to soak the sliced leeks in a bowl of tepid water for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Most of the dirt will fall to the bottom. Remove them with tongs or with your hands careful not to stir up the dirt at the bottom.
Blot dry. Saute the wet leeks in a dry (non-oiled) heavy bottomed pan for 5 mins on Medium high heat, stirring constantly. Once they begin to soften, add salt and butter and cover... stirring every 10 minutes or so until they are very tender ...this will take some patience. About 35 minutes.
In the meantime, cut up the bread in 1 inch cubes and toast in the oven on a sheet pan for 15- 20 mins until brown and dry.
Here is quick way to cut bread. Stack it up before slicing.
Once the bread cubes are in the oven, make the egg mixture.
Crack three large eggs in a medium sized bowl.
You may be tempted to use all half and half, or heavy cream. I've done this, and it was too rich.
Add salt, thyme, chives, nutmeg and white pepper.
Grate some gouda.
Place your bread in a large bowl and add the leeks.
Grease your baking dishes. You could do this in one large deep 9 x 13 baking dish or several smaller ones. I have even done them in small individual sized ramekins as well.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
When it comes out it will be beautifully puffed and golden.
Savory Leek Bread Pudding
3 cups leeks ( about 3-4 leeks depending on size)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 T butter
1/4 tsp white pepper
12 cups bread cubes ( about one large french bread loaf)
1 T chives or scallions
1 T fresh thyme
3 large eggs
3 cups milk
3 cups 1/2 and 1/2
1 cup shredded gouda, or comte or emmentaler cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cut leeks into 1/2 inch rounds using only white and lighter green parts and place in a bowl of luke warm water to remove dirt. Mix several times and let dirt settle to the bottom. Set a skillet on med high heat. Lift leeks format the water, drain and addd them to the un-oiled pan. Season with salt and stir for 5 minutes. As leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to med- low. Stir in the butter and cover the pan, stirring every 10 minutes for 30-35mins, until tender.
Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and toast on a sheet pan for 20 mins until golden and dry. You may need to mix or turn mid-way so they are evenly browned. Transfer to large bowl.
Grate 1 1/4 cups of cheese. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk 3 eggs. Add milk and half and half. Whisk. Add salt, thyme, chives, pinch of fresh nutmeg and white pepper. Whisk.
Add your now tender buttery leaks to the toasted bread and toss well.
Grease your baking dish and put a 1/4 cup of cheese on the bottom. Spread 1/2 of the leek and bread mixture in the pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese. Add the rest of leeks and bread to the pan.
Mix the custard once more and carefully pour enough of it to cover the bread mixture, gently pressing on the cubes of bread allowing it to soak in. Let sit 10 mins. Then add more custard, allowing some of the bread cubes to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c cheese and bake in the middle of the oven until nicely puffed and lightly browned about ....1 1/2 hours.