Leek and Shiitake Bread Pudding:
A NY Times Potluck
A few weeks back the folks at Red White Boston invited me to a potluck dinner being held in honor of the release of The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The potluck involved around 70 people including many bloggers and local chefs, and the guest of honor was Amanda Hesser, food writer for The NY Times and the editor of the cookbook. All I needed to do was bring a dish made from a recipe affiliated with the NY Times.
Since I wouldn't be able to reheat my dish at the venue, I wanted to make something that would either retain its heat well, or could be served warm. After a bit of searching, I settled on the Leek and Shiitake Bread Pudding. I have never made bread pudding before, so I thought this would be a good experience. I've also been pretty obsessed with mushrooms lately, so I was excited to cook with some fresh shiitakes. While I was making the bread pudding, I was definitely wondering why I didn't make something I was more confident in or had made before, considering Amanda Hesser would be there to eat it.
After preheating my oven to 350, I began to sweat 4 leeks in 4 tablespoons of butter and some salt and pepper. After 10 minutes I added 7 ounces of quartered shiitake mushrooms to the pan and let it all cook for another 5 minutes.
While the leeks and mushrooms were sauteing, I heated 3 cups of whole milk with a crushed clove of garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until the milk started to bubble. Once the milk was heated, I poured it over 8 1/2-inch slices of semolina bread, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Once the bread was soaked, I started to put each piece into a buttered dutch oven. Between each slice of bread, I put a scoop of the leek and shiitake mixture, and I tried to stack the slices like dominoes.
After all of the bread and leek and shiitake mixture was in the dutch oven, I poured in the custard base. This base was made from 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of heavy cream seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch coriander.
Since this is a custard, it is cooked in a water bath. A water bath just means that you put the dutch oven into a larger roasting pan, and pour water into the roasting pan to a level that is halfway up the bread pudding. To speed things along though, you should always start with boiling water.
After 40 minutes of baking in the water bath the pudding was set. I removed the lid, bumped the oven temperature up to 375 and baked for another 10 minutes to brown the top.
The plan worked. The bread budding survived the drive and was a good temperature by the time it was served. It was definitely more custardy than bready, and the shiitakes added a great earthy flavor. I didn't see if Amanda Hesser had a bite, but I would not have been too worried if she did. I will definitely be making this again. For more info on the event, Meghan has a recap here , and Megan has a recap here.
The Bottom Line:
Difficulty: 6/10 Not overly difficult.
Cost: About $15: The shiitakes were the most expensive ingredient, but they were much cheaper at Ming's than at most other grocery stores.
Best left to professionals? No, this is actually a great potluck dish.
Special equipment? None.