One of our favorite things is a nice loaf of fresh sourdough. Another one of our favorite things is how versatile the leftover bread is when it gets stale. Normally we just make toast with it, but I was inspired by Thomas Keller’s leek bread pudding from Ad Hoc at Home. My sister and her boyfriend Kyle gave Emily and me this book as a gift. After my sister confessed to reading the entire thing, she turned to page 213 and informed me that I must make this beautiful side dish. The recipe calls for brioche and serves twelve, so I made a few minor changes. With about half of an Acme sourdough batard leftover and leeks from our CSA box, I got to work.
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the leeks and clean them in a bowl of cold water; the grit will fall to the bottom and the leeks will float. When you’re confident that they are grit-free, add them to a dry saute pan over medium-high heat. Season and stir until they release liquid (it won’t be much), then lower the heat to low, add about two tablespoons of butter, and stir to create an emulsion. Cover and stir occasionally until the leeks are very soft. Once they are done, taste and season with salt and pepper.
While the leeks are getting soft and sweet, cut your bread into one inch cubes and place in the oven and brown on both sides. When the bread is toasted and the leeks are done, mix the two in a bowl and add a tablespoon of chopped chives and a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves.
Now that you’ve got your bread and your leeks, you need some pudding, right? Kinda. It’s a custard and while that sounds difficult, it’s actually really easy. Whisk together one egg, one cup of whole milk, and one cup of cream. Add a very small pinch of nutmeg and a generous pinch (maybe a half teaspoon) of salt and some fresh pepper. That’s it.
Next, you need some cheese for extra decadence. The recipe calls for comté or emmentaler, but any semi-soft, flavorful cheese will work. I had some cave-aged emmentaler on hand, so I used that. I shredded it all and got about half a cup. Butter an appropriately sized baking dish (I used a medium sized, round casserole) and put about a third of the cheese on the bottom. Then place about half of the bread mixture and top with another third of the cheese. Then add the last of the bread and pour in the custard until there’s about half an inch of bread poking out of the top; you can push the bread into the custard a little bit if it looks like there’s not enough custard. Here, the recipe says to let the bread pudding sit to absorb the custard for about 15 minutes, but Emily and I don’t really like a super gooey texture, so I just topped it with the rest of the cheese and threw it in the oven. Bake until the center has set up and the top is browned, about 45-60 minutes.
It was very tasty, you don’t have to be very precise with it, you can switch thing out if you need to, and it make a great side dish. The cookbook says it can be a main course, but that seems like a bit much. It would be fantastic with any hearty fall or winter meal, but it may overshadow the main course. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember what we ate this with. I guess that means it was a winner, right?