pancetta + leeks

I’ve been tweaking a lot of my favorite standards lately; last Saturday’s mac & cheese, for instance, was made with more bechamel than I have traditionally used, making it extra creamy and luxurious, and I also used a different blend of cheeses, adding a blue and a creamy cheese to the mix. When planning our meals for the week, I decided to reserve the remnants of a Poilane loaf I brought home on Friday and use it for one of our other favorite comfort food dinners – a savory bread pudding – and I decided to play around with my usual recipe.

We had a couple of leeks in the fridge that I wanted to use up, so I chopped those and sautéed them with half a pound of chopped thickly sliced pancetta. That got tossed with my cubed bread, along with a handful of chopped fresh sage. I fiddled with the proportions in my custard, combining six eggs with two cups of whole milk, one cup of heavy cream, a little kosher salt and a couple of tablespoons of Colman’s dry mustard. I added my cheeses to this – about a cup each of grated Parmagiano Reggiano and Mecox Bay Dairy Sigit (a really delicious Alpine-style cheese), then poured the mixture over my bread cubes. After a bit of tossing and squishing, I transferred the mixture to a buttered baking dish, added a bit more grated cheese on top and placed it into the oven, baking it at 375 until it was puffy and browned.

Dinner:  February 12, 2008

Though parts of the bottom got a little over-browned, this was probably my favorite bread pudding yet, rich and creamy in the center, with crisp edges and a crusty, cheesy top. I will probably use this base going forward, but I need to remember to let the pudding rest a bit longer once it comes out of the oven – that added creaminess makes for a molten hot center and steam burns on the roof of the mouth are no fun.

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