Classic Bread Pudding

My husband requested bread pudding for his celebratory Father’s Day dessert this year. This classic dessert is second only to cheesecake in his heart. ❤

This isn’t technically another strawberry dessert… but the fresh strawberry topping definitely brought this fabulously creamy bread pudding to the next level.

The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.com. I omitted the raisins, modified the presentation, and added the fresh strawberry garnish. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened, for baking dish
  • 12 ounces brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup boiling water, optional (if using raisins), plus more for pan
  • fresh strawberry slices, for garnish, optional

Ottolenghi’s Meatball Toad-in-the-Hole

More meatballs! This is an updated version of the classic British dish. Ottolenghi describes the key elements as “well-cooked meat, crisp pancake and velvety gravy.” He modified the popular dish by using ground pork in the meatballs. It was very hearty and rich.

The complete dish was time consuming to prepare, but the components can be made separately and ahead to save time, if desired. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified the baking times.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: about 2 hours

For the Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 2/3 cup/160 ml India pale ale or another pale ale (I used Sierra Nevada)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Gravy:

  • 2 T sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions (about 12 oz (350 g) total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups/480 ml chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 T/100 ml India pale ale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 7 oz/200 g sourdough bread, crusts discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) cubes
  • 3/4 cup/180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700 g ground pork
  • 4 oz/115 g pancetta, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1/2 onion or 1 very small onion (about 3 oz/80 g), grated
  • 1/3 packed cup/20 g roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 T/90 ml sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F/240°C, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare the batter: Add the eggs, milk, beer and mustard to a large bowl, and whisk vigorously until foamy, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour and salt to a separate large bowl, making a well in the center, and pour the egg mixture into the well, in about four increments, whisking lightly each time until the flour is just incorporated. Whisk until there are no lumps and the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.
  4. Set batter aside for at least 30 minutes, or while you continue with the next step.
  5. Prepare the gravy: Add the oil, butter, onions, rosemary and vinegar to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-centimeter) baking dish (tin)(Do not use pyrex/glass). Bake, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until the onions are thoroughly collapsed and browned, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the flour, stock and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, then pour flour mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Return gravy to the oven and bake, stirring twice throughout, until the gravy is thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and keep warm.
  8. While the gravy is cooking, prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl and set aside until the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes. Use your hands or a fork to break apart the bread into a lumpy mash.
  9. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, pancetta, onion, parsley, garlic and lemon zest with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the bread and use your hands to knead the mixture until it is very well mixed. Shape into 12 large meatballs.
  10. Spread 2 tablespoons oil across the bottom of a large roasting pan (tin), about 9-by-13-inches (23-by-33-centimeters) in size. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  11. Add the meatballs and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until some of their liquid has been released. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Pour the liquid released from the meatballs in the roasting pan directly into the gravy, and then wipe the roasting pan dry.
  12. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the meatball roasting pan and return to the oven until very hot and beginning to smoke, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  13. Working as quickly as possible, pour the batter into the pan (it should bubble around the edges) and then add the meatballs and 2 rosemary sprigs. Return to the oven immediately and bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Reduce the temperature to 400°F/210°C (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden and well risen. (If you want, near the end of baking time (when the custard is set), you can sneak the gravy into the oven to rewarm during the last 5 minutes of baking.)
  15. Serve immediately, with the gravy alongside.

Herby Polenta with Corn, Eggs, & Feta

This is another wonderful one-pot vegetarian baked egg casserole that can be served any time of day. The title of the New York Times article about it was, “Polenta That You’ll Never Need to Stir: Baking a classic in a sea of eggs and cheese gives it complexity.” Irresistible. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used my special grits from Charleston, South Carolina instead of polenta. I also increased the amount of garlic, reduced the red pepper flakes, and kept the corn kernels whole. I loved all of the brightness from the combination of fresh herbs. Delicious!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 9 ounces (255 g) frozen corn kernels (about 2 cups), defrosted
  • 6 to 7 ounces (~200 g) baby spinach (about 10 lightly packed cups), roughly torn or sliced
  • 1 cup (150 g) coarse cornmeal (grits or polenta)
  • 1 packed cup (50 g) finely grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced, 2 T reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 T finely chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 3 T roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 T roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (530 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (475 ml) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 T (40 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 5 ounces (140 g) Greek feta, roughly crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
  • warm naan, pita, or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F/200°C, preferably on convection.
  2. If desired, add the corn to a food processor and pulse once or twice, just until roughly chopped. (I opted to leave the kernels whole.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the corn, spinach, cornmeal, Parmesan, scallions, 1/4 cup cilantro, parsley, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper; stir to combine.
  4. Transfer this mixture to a large, deep, oven-proof skillet, then add the milk, stock and butter, stirring gently to mix through. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and give everything a good whisk.
  6. Return to the oven and bake until the cornmeal is cooked through and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Give the polenta another good whisk — it should be quite smooth and not completely set — then stir in half the feta.
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C, preferably on convection.
  8. Use a dinner spoon to make 8 shallow wells in the polenta. Crack an egg into each well and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining feta all over, and bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, combine the reserved scallions and cilantro in a bowl with the oil. Spoon this mixture all over the polenta and eggs and sprinkle with the red-pepper flakes, if desired. Serve directly from the pan.

Skillet Shepherd’s Pie

My son and I made this dish together for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner. We’ve been keeping ourselves busy while we’re stuck at home! He is a big fan of mashed potatoes, so he made the topping himself. I loved the ridged pattern on the finished crust.

Although the recipe is streamlined to be made in one skillet, it was still a little bit time-consuming. (Thankfully, we had plenty of time!) The plus side is that it can be prepared with ingredients that are readily available in your pantry and freezer. It definitely created less dishes too. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen via The Associated Press. It was originally published in their book, Cook it in Cast Iron. I used a combination of Dutch yellow baby potatoes and red potatoes instead of russet potatoes, ground turkey instead of ground beef, increased the amount of garlic, and modified the method. Great comfort food.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 pounds potatoes, Dutch yellow baby potatoes (unpeeled), red potatoes (unpeeled), or russets (peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 T unsalted butter, divided (4 T melted)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey or 93% lean ground beef
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Cover potatoes with water in large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon salt, bring to simmer over medium-high heat, and cook until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes for unpeeled baby potatoes or 8 to 10 minutes for peeled and cut russet potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes and return them to saucepan. If using unpeeled baby potatoes, remove the peels at this point.
  3. Using a potato ricer, process all of the potatoes. (Alternatively the potatoes can be mashed until smooth.)
  4. In a measuring cup, whisk milk and egg together. Stir into potatoes along with 4 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; cover and set aside.
  5. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  6. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet.
  7. Add carrots, onion, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.
  9. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  10. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
  11. Slowly stir in stock and Worcestershire, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps.
  12. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
  13. Off the heat, stir in peas and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  14. Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler.
  15. Dollop the mashed potatoes over the top of the filling. Smooth topping with a knife or the back of a spoon, then use the tines of a fork to make ridges on the surface.
  16. Place the skillet in the oven and broil until topping is golden brown and crusty, 5 to 10 minutes.
  17. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Butternut Squash, Sage, & Ricotta Manicotti

I made this baked pasta dish to serve on Thanksgiving Eve. My Mother-in-Law asked that I post the recipe so that she could make it to serve to vegetarian guests. It was such a compliment! This post is quite belated- oops. :/

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Everyday Food. I used manicotti noodles instead of lasagna and modified the proportions. I boiled the squash in the salted pasta water but may roast it instead next time to enhance its flavor. It was cheesy, creamy, and rich comfort food.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 6 T olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (8 oz each) packages manicotti (there will be leftover noodles)
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 large shallots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 16 to 20 whole leaves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 (15 oz each) containers of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. In a large pot of boiling, generously salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Using tongs, transfer pasta to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Add squash to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain squash and transfer to a bowl. (Alternatively, the squash can be roasted at 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast, until lightly browned and tender, about 25 to 35 minutes.)
  5. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer sautéed shallots to the bowl with the squash and add 4 tablespoons milk, chopped sage, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until a rough puree forms.
  7. Fill a gallon ziplock bag with the squash mixture. Cut an opening in one bottom corner of the bag, large enough to fit the opening of the manicotti noodles.
  8. Pipe the squash mixture into the manicotti noodles, about 1/4 cup each. Place each filled noodle into the prepared baking dish. (I had 8 cooked noodles leftover.)
  9. In a bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup milk and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Spread ricotta mixture over cannelloni and top with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan.
  11. Bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes.
  12. Broil until top is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high. Fry whole sage leaves until crispy, 15 to 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
  14. Serve the casserole topped with fried sage.

One-Skillet Rotisserie Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is one of my ultimate favorite comfort food dishes. This version was fabulous! The use of rotisserie chicken meat in the filling and puff pastry as the crust were wonderful (and delicious) shortcuts.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz. I modified the proportions and used rainbow carrots instead of turnips in the filling to add a little color. GREAT.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 5 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 1 lb rainbow carrots or turnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 T thyme leaves
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2½ tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 10 oz bag frozen peas
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (1/2 box/8.6 oz), thawed overnight
  1. Place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove and discard skin from a rotisserie chicken. Using your hands, shred the meat into 1″ pieces until you have 5 cups; set aside. Reserve any leftover meat for another use.
  3. Cut the onions in half through root, trim root ends, then peel. Finely chop onion and transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Peel the carrots (or turnips), then trim off the ends. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to another medium bowl.
  5. Lightly smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Peel, then coarsely chop. Transfer to bowl with the carrots/turnips.
  6. Add thyme leaves to bowl with carrots/turnips and garlic.
  7. Melt butter in a 12″ oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not browned, 5–6 minutes.
  8. Add carrot/turnip mixture, season with 1 tsp salt and 1½ tsp pepper, and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to soften, 3 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until flour begins to stick to bottom of pan, about 30 seconds. The flour is going to help thicken the gravy you’re trying to create.
  10. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, to burn off some of the alcohol, about 1 minute.
  11. Set aside 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Add remaining cream, reserved chicken, peas, and 1½ tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook, tossing occasionally, until warmed through, 3–4 minutes.
  12. Transfer skillet to a rimmed baking sheet, which will prevent any juices that bubble out of the pan from spilling onto your oven floor.
  13. Roll out the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ square (large enough to cover skillet with a bit of overhang). Roll pastry up onto rolling pin. (You could use an empty wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin.) Unfurl pastry from rolling pin, draping it over skillet.
  14. Trim pastry so that there is a 1″ border all around. Fold edge of puff pastry under itself. Crimp edges with a fork (just like you would do when making the top crust of a pie).
  15. Using a pastry brush, brush top of pastry with reserved cream. Cut 5–6 small slits in the center so steam can escape.
  16. Bake pot pie until crust is light golden brown, 22 to 24 minutes.
  17. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, preferably on convection, and continue to bake until filling is bubbling around the edges and crust is well browned, 22 to 35 minutes longer.
  18. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Shortcut Vegetarian Enchiladas with Butternut Squash & Black Beans

This crowd-pleasing casserole uses store bought enchilada sauce as a shortcut. I peeled and cut a butternut squash, but using pre-cut squash would be another easy shortcut. It was a wonderful vegetarian dish.

This recipe was adapted from Skinnytaste.com. I modified the proportions, used Monterey Jack cheese, and substituted corn tortillas for flour tortillas. I served the enchiladas with brown Basmati rice, refried beans, and Trader Joe’s Mexican street corn. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 oz bottle of enchilada sauce (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut 1/2-inch-dice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 10 oz can “original” Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 corn tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • sour cream, for serving, optional (low-fat okay)
  • brown Basmati rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Place 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. (I used a ceramic 9×13-inch baking dish.)
  3. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add cubed butternut squash, Rotel tomatoes, black beans, water, cilantro, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Add more water if the mixture looks dry.)
  5. At the end of the cooking time for the filling, steam the tortillas. Place the corn tortillas in a tortilla warmer or on a plate and place a damp paper towel on top. Cover tightly (using plastic wrap if using a plate), and microwave for approximately 1 minute, or until they are warm and pliable. Keep covered until ready to fill.
  6. Place a generous 1/4 cup filling in the center of each tortilla and roll to close, placing in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with the remaining filling. (I used a dry measuring cup to ration the filling.)
  7. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
  8. Bake, covered with foil until the sauce is bubbling and hot and the cheese is melted, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Top with scallions and cilantro. Serve with sour cream, rice, and/or refried beans, as desired.

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