By CLAIRE McCONNELL
May 4, 2012
Special to the Falls Church Times
(Editor's Note: When I met up with Claire at the last Falls Church Farmers Market chef demo she was so excited about this recipe and I can see why! She thought this would be a lovely accompaniment to a Mother's Day dinner or brunch. So come to the Falls Church Farmer's Market tomorrow to welcome all the new and familiar vendors and pull together your ingredients for next weekend's Mother Day celebrations.)
When my husband and I lived in the Napa Valley several years ago, I cooked at a very popular Michelin-star restaurant. The summer was the valley’s busiest time of year, and on weekends especially, the restaurant would be bustling with servers, cooks, bussers, dishwashers, you name it. I worked the lunch shift on the weekends and, in addition to prepping my station and cooking for the guests, it was also my responsibility to make family meal for our entire staff.
We were encouraged by our chef to make dishes that fed many but cost little. One of the ingredients we always had plenty of was stale bread, left over from the night before. Obviously, I had used stale bread in the past to make French toast or sweet bread pudding, but as side dishes go that wasn’t going to work. But I thought, why not a savory bread pudding, a creamier stuffing if you will. “Eureka!” Now I know that a savory version of bread pudding was thought up long before my time as a cook, but this recipe is true perfection and so affordable, even with a multitude of farmer’s market ingredients. It also makes a great addition to any Mother’s Day breakfast or brunch or dinner.
Five of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The San Francisco Sourdough bread, made from certified organic flour, is from Atwater’s Bakery in Baltimore, Md., http://atwaters.biz/. The uncured bacon, from grass-fed pork, is from Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Va., http://smithmeadows.com/. The spring onions are from Laurel Grove Farms in Oak Grove, Va. The free-range eggs are from Flower of the Forest Farm in Lexington Park, Md. And the milk is from Clear Spring Creamery in Clear Spring, Md., http://www.clearspringcreamery.com/.
Equipment: 1 medium skillet, 1 9 X 13 baking dish, 1 large mixing bowl, 1 medium mixing bowl, 1 medium sauce pan.
6 cups stale bread (I think sourdough works well in this recipe) – cut into a 1-inch dice — $3.50
6 strips of bacon (I used uncured, hormone free)- small dice — $2.89
4 spring onions (not scallions), about 1 cup – sliced thinly into rounds — $1.25
1 cup whole milk — $0.62
1 cup heavy cream — $1.24
2 whole eggs — $0.78
1 egg yolk – $0.39
½ tsp fresh thyme — $0.03
1 tsp. salt — $0.01
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper — $0.01
½ cup grated pecorino — $0.53
2 Tbsp. softened butter — $0.40
Total cost of dish = $11.65
Begin by cutting the stale bread into a 1-inch dice. The bread should be very stale and hard. If you feel like your bread isn’t stale enough, it can always be popped into a low oven, at about 300 degrees, for about 15 minutes. Once the bread is cubed, place it in a large mixing bowl for later.
Saute bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Add crispy bacon to the large mixing bowl with the bread. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat from the skillet. Saute spring onions in rendered bacon fat until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add onions to the large mixing bowl.
Whisk whole eggs and the egg yolk in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a separate sauce pan add milk and cream. Cook until scalding (when mixture just begin to boil around the edges). Slowly stream in the hot milk/cream mixture into the eggs while whisking constantly. If the milk is added to the eggs too quickly, the eggs will scramble, so ADD SLOWLY! Season the milk/cream mixture with salt, pepper and thyme. When the salt is dissolved, add the milk/cream mixture to the bread. Stir until all of the ingredients are well-combined. Add pecorino and stir to combine. The mixture will look very wet. This is okay. The bread will absorb the liquid as it sits, (reference picture below). Refrigerate the mixture for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Move the oven rack to the highest setting and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with softened butter. Add the bread mixture to the greased dish and cover with foil. Bake for 40 minutes covered on the top rack and then uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes. The bread pudding should be set and all the liquid should be cooked and absorbed into the bread. Be cautious not to overcook the pudding; it will be very dry.
Makes eight 1-cup portions.