Why Sometimes, I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!- Lewis Carroll, Alice and Wonderland
I may believe many impossible things each morning but none of them include a world without Brunch. In addition to Harry Potter, David Beckham, and the Beatles we owe our beloved Brunch to Britain. Brunch originated in the turn of the 20th century and descends from hunting luncheons, where wealthy people would enjoy a substantial leisurely meal typically at their country houses after the morning’s activities. This popular Sunday pastime has grown so quickly that restaurants, cookbooks, and aisles in the groceries have been devoted to brunch.
I propose that we add a new dish to compete with the classic french toast, pancakes and eggs benedict. I propose savory bread puddings join the race. Last week I made a leek bread pudding for our Sunday Funday meal and it was delicious. The fluffy light custard blended with the subtle flavor of the leek to create a refined yet simple delight. I say we believe the impossible, that savory bread pudding sweeps the nation and since it is delicious with a mimosa… I guess it’s not that impossible of a belief.
Leek Bread Pudding (recipe adapted from Ad Hoc cookbook):
1 cup 1/2 inch thick slices of leek (white and light green parts only)
2 T unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
6 c of 1 inch cubes of Brioche or French bread (you can remove crust if you like)
1 T finely chopped chives
1 t thyme leaves
3 Large eggs
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 1/2 c heavy cream
freshly grated nutmeg
1 c shredded Comte
Preheat oven to 350.
Put the leek rounds in a large bowl of tepid water and swish so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Set a medium saute pan over medium high heat, lift the leeks from the water, drain, and add them to the pan. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. As the leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to medium-low. The leeks will release liquid. Stir in the butter to emulsify, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and cook, stirring every ten minutes until the leeks are very soft, 30-35 minutes. If at any point the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in about a tablespoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce.
Meanwhile, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in oven for about 20 minutes, until dry and pale gold. Make sure to rotate the pan ten minutes in. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the leeks to the bread and toss well, then add the chives and thyme.
Lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream. a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg
Sprinkle 1/4 c of the cheese in the bottom of a 9 x9 baking dish. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan and sprinkle another 1/4 c cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over and top with another 1/4 c of cheese. Pour in enough of the custard mixture to cover the bread and press gently on the bread so it soaks in the milk. Let soak for about 15 minutes.
Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until the pudding feels set and top is brown and bubbling. Serves 4-6 people. Serve with a bit of hot sauce.