I had the best intentions of blogging at least a few of the recipes from this month’s Mommy Dinner because it was New Orleans fare! My menu included jalapeno poppers with hurricanes (just one round), red beans and rice, shrimp and grits and bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Kurt, ever since our 10th anniversayr trip to New Orleans, has challenged me to recreate a bread pudding we had at one of the many fancy restaurants we visited. I “think” I nailed it this time!
As I was cooking off and on throughout the day, I did pretty well with the camera until it came to pulling together the last few dishes. I’m blaming it on the hurricanes. Consequently, I’ll wait on posting on the shrimp stock (Kurt recently requested a bouillabaisse), and share the bread pudding recipe and whiskey sauce. Thanks to gal pal Tamara, I do have picture of the plated shrimp and grits and the bread pudding before I served it!
I made the shrimp and grits based on John Besh’s recipe that I found online, here. It had to be made at the last minute (dang those fast-cooking shrimp), so I let the ladies know we were going to have a little cooking demo. Actually, I wanted some advice on cooking grits; mine are always hit or miss– usually too thick or lumpy and I have to try to beat them into smoothness.
I had two ladies reared in the south; my friend Shari who hails from Kentucky (she’s a fellow Kappa Delta and introduced us to REAL mint juleps), and Margo who is from the now celebrated vampire town of Shreveport, Louisiana. She was the main reason I didn’t attempt this menu in February because I didn’t want to disappoint her regional palate. (I’ve been restaurants that say they make Filipino dishes, only to find out that they taste NOTHING like the dishes I’ve made or had at numerous family gatherings).
As I put together the shrimp, I asked for someone who knew how to cook grits to step up and manage that. Margo volunteered and as I was cooking the shrimp and sauce, I’d glance sideways to see what she was doing…and discovered my fatal flaw! All the times I’ve made grits, I let them boil the entire time, and I noticed Margo turned down the heat as soon as she was stirring in the grits. I’ve never done that because I was afraid those tiny bits of hominy wouldn’t cook without the high heat! So I learned the cooking technique is the same as for polenta.
The Besh recipe calls for mascarpone and gouda; I switched to cheddar and cream cheese. I was iffy about adding the cream cheese, but the entire band of ladies wanted it ALL– cheddar, butter, cream cheese. AND IT WAS SO WORTH IT!
Once I finished the shrimp, I had everyone taste test the sauce and we agreed it was time to dine! I served a Gewurtraminer with the meal and we had a great evening! Many to-go containers, supposedly for the dads…
I-Think-I-Nailed-It-For-Kurt-Bread-Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
Note: You need to buy the bread at least a day before so it can dry out (unless you have a dehydrator feature in your oven, as I do, to hurry things along)
for the pudding:
- 1 loaf challah bread (approx 1 lb– I bought a loaf labeled “12 oz” from Wegman’s, but it weighed in at 1 lb at home)
- 1/2 c golden raisins
- 1/2 c raisins
- 5 extra large eggs (need to go up to 6 if using large)
- 4 c half-and-half (or a combination of whole milk and heavy cream)
- 3/4 sugar
- 3/4 brown sugar (dark, light or a mix of the two)
- 2 TB vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
for the whiskey sauce:
- 1 stick (8 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c cream
- 1/4 whiskey (or rum or bourbon or cognac– you get the idea)
Cut up the bread into 1-inch cubes and let dry out overnight.
Spray a 9×13 inch pan (or large casserole) with cooking spray. Mix the two types of raisins together in a small bowl.
Place a layer of bread cubes in the pan and sprinkle with 1/3 of the raisins. alternate layers of bread and raisins, ending with raisins. (This is not a critical success factor– just intersperse the raisins and bread cubes as best you can).
In a large bowl (I have a 1/2 gallon batter pitcher, courtesy of Pampered Chef), add the half-and-half and eggs. Whisk thoroughly to combine.
Add the sugars next and whisk until they have dissolved.
Add the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk again.
Carefully pour 1/3 of the mixture on top of the bread cubes/raisins. Let this soak into the bread for a few seconds, then take a rubber spatula and press down on the surface. Continue the process of gradually adding liquid, letting it penetrate the cubes, and pushing down on the top until all the liquid has been poured into the pan.
At this point, I take the spatula and push the bread around from the inside edge of the pan as well as in the center, to make sure the liquid has moved all the way through each layer of cubes. When you’re satisfied everything came into contact with the milk mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours.
About 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pudding from the refrigerator to take the chill off. After 30 minutes, discard the plastic wrap and bake the pudding for 1 hour, 15 minutes. The pudding will puff up 1 to 2 inches; it’s beautiful. You can test if the pudding is ready by inserting a THIN knife into the center; it should come out clean.
Let the pudding rest while you make the whiskey sauce.
To make the whiskey sauce:
Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil for no more than 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. I usually have to whisk the sauce again right before serving to emulsify. Serve in a small pitcher with the bread pudding.
Thanks Margo for the grits demo as well as the tip to boil down the red beans and rice (I let them go another 15 minutes– the texture was perfect and seasoning was fine after the extra liquid evaporated)!