While it took me over a week to settle on a recipe for the leg of lamb, I knew I wanted to serve leek bread pudding (also from Thomas Keller’sAd Hoc at Home) since I decided to host Easter dinner. I first made this savory bread pudding last Easter and made it again in December for my office holiday party. Both times those who ate the concoction oohed and aaahed at its deliciousness. My culinary prowess aside, the true reason this bread pudding tastes so great is because three cups of heavy whipping cream, three cups of whole milk, three eggs, and a cup of cheese are involved in putting this together. Additionally, twelve cups of buttery rich brioche is the bread of choice (though a Pullman loaf is can also be used per Thomas Keller). If you think the one thing this recipe is missing is the addition of nearly half a dozen more eggs and tons of butter, go for the brioche; otherwise my preference is to make this bread pudding with a Pullman loaf or regular white bread. As a person who regularly runs 40 miles a week, I hardly think twice about decadent dishes but this one made me pause and consider whether I would have a mid-run heart attack after consuming this. Luckily that has not yet happened. If I can stick to making this luscious bread pudding only three times a year (and convince others to eat the majority of it), I can assert that as rich and decadent as this dish is, it is worth every single calorie.
For Easter dinner, I asked Emily to make the bread pudding while I handled the leg of lamb. Part of me wanted to go for the brioche this go-around but the responsible-ish part of me opted for a loaf of white bread, similar to a Pullman loaf. Emily came over with the remaining ingredients and after she finished the knife work (cutting leeks, cubing bread, etc.) we broke into a bottle of white wine she had bought when we were in Paso Robles last summer and drank away while putting the finishing touches on the bread pudding. As Emily and I have perfected the art of cooking while drinking, the bread pudding came out as delicious as I remembered. I love how the bread puffs up while baking away in the oven and turns into a nice golden brown. It is wonderfully crisp and firm on the outside but gooey and sumptuous on the inside. If it were up to my stomach, I could make and eat this at least once a month, but my arteries likely can only handle this 3-4 times a year and only if there are others to help me plow through it.
Leek Bread Pudding (from Ad Hoc at Home)
2 cups 1/2-inch thick slices leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch-cubed crustless brioche or Pullman loaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comté or Emmenthaler cheese.
Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.
Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.
Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt and remaining cheese. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours.