Monday, February 23, 2009

savory bread pudding with raisins and bacon

Last week, I took a free class offered through my place of employment. It was an artisan bread class taught by Josh Allen, founder of Companion Bread in St. Louis. It wasn't a class about MAKING artisan bread, though he does those at Kitchen Conservatory, and I may have to take it one of these days. It was a class on what to do with the bread you purchase.

One of the recipes he demo'd was from this really neat program Companion is doing with local restaurants called CollaBREADtive. What happens is every month, Companion comes up with a bread for a restaurant, and the chef comes up with a dish using that bread. This month Karen Hoffman from Cielo, Downtown, is working with Companion's Fennel Semolina & Raisin Bread. She came up with a savory bread pudding(PDF) to serve with pork. Yum. The class came with a complimentary loaf of the bread, so I had to recreate this bread pudding at home. This is not my first savory bread pudding experience, and my other one involved fennel as well! I like the addition of raisins in this one, but it was not as much as a meal on it's own as the other one was. It was really yummy, though. And while this bread is not available everywhere, and might be limited edition, you can easily subtitute regular french bread or your favorite artisan bread, and add golden raisins and fennel seeds to the recipe. I did not smoosh my bread into the custard very well, so I ended up having a lot of crunchy cubes of bread on mine, which was fine, because who doesn't like croutons?

savory bread pudding with raisins and bacon (adapted from Karen Hoffman's Bread Pudding)

1 loaf Companion Fennel Semolina & Raisin Bread
1/4 cup olive oil
5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, shopped fine
2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

Cut bread into small cubes, and toast in a 250º oven for about 20 minutes, until crunchy and golden. Turn oven to 375º. Butter a 13x9 glass baking dish. Cook bacon in a skillet until browned and almost crispy. set aside on paper towels. In about 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat, cook garlic and shallots until softened. In a bowl, mix together the bacon, olive oil, garlic, shallots, parsley and thyme. Toss this mixture with the bread cubes, then toss in 1/2 cup up the parmesan. Spread bread mixture in the baking dish. Whisk eggs, then whisk in the milk. season with salt and pepper, then pour over the bread in the baking dish. Gently smoosh the bread down with your hands to get the liquid well-distributed. Bake uncovered for about an hour, adding the remaining cheese to the top after about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 13, 2009

25 random things about me and food

Are you all sick of these "25 things about me" lists that are all over your facebooks? TOO BAD! I've had a full social calendar, and therefore have not cooked much. I did cook a yummy veggie lasagna this week, but one of the main ingredients was jarred Alfredo sauce, and that makes it feel just a little too semi-homemade to post. I rresearched the jarred sauce, if that makes any difference...

Anyway, I saw that Kelly from Sounding my Barbaric Gulp did a list, so I thought I'd be a copy cat and do one too. I got quite nostalgic doing this. I tried to make it not be about my childhood, but once I had one memory, they just kept coming!

1. As a child I hated most things that involved cheese; mac & cheese, grilled cheese, cheeseburgers. This is probably because all cheese I encountered was American processed cheese product slices or velveeta. I still hate that junk.

2. When I eat hot foods my eyebrows sweat.

3. Also a child I hated tuna and tomatoes. Love them both now.

4. Because of my dislike of tomatoes as a kid, when we had BLTs for dinner, I got a peanut butter bacon sandwich instead.

5. I have tried, and kind of enjoyed, durian.

6. I have never liked mayonnaise. Still don't, though I'm getting better...I've had a remoulade that I really liked recently. Used to be I wouldn't go near anything mayo based, and simply opening a jar would make me gag.

7. I worked at a Chinese buffet restaurant the first couple years of college. I just took orders and cleared tables. People didn't like me much because I'm white, and I suppose that made them question the authenticity of their St. Paul sandwiches and Crab Rangoon.

8. My dad was the cook in the house, and he was really good. Mom specialized in hamburger helper and taco kits.

9. I wash my face with olive oil.

10. My grandparents on both sides always had pears for me when I came over.

11. While I still love pears, my favorite fruit these days is mango.

12. I am still a fan of manwhich after all these years.

13. Although I have outgrown spaghettios. I ate them alot in college, until the time it gave me terrible tooth pain because of all the sugar it has in it. I had no idea!

14. I love Ethiopian food, mostly because I love eating with my hands and having it be socially acceptable.

15. I have a girl crush on Nigella Lawson.

16. Many people have told me they thought I was a vegetarian. Must be the glasses.

17. My favorite cereal is coco puffs. I am indeed cookoo for them.

18. I used to think the only food I wouldn't try was Balut, but the more I read about it, the more I think I want to at least attempt it.

19. Lamb is one of my favorite meats, yet I've only cooked it myself once.

20. I have a collection of PEZ dispensers at work. And no, I don't eat the candy. Well, maybe once a year I'll have some of the candy...

21. I've plucked the eye out of a grilled fish and eaten it. It was good! Like a little fishy nut.

22. One of my favorite things when I was a kid was when my dad would make us chocolate shakes. Vanilla ice cream, Quik powder, milk, mixed and mashed with a spoon. Yum. Also, we hardly ever had chocolate syrup, so my dad would mix the quik powder with a little water to make chocolate syrup for sundaes.

23. My grandpa once tried to tell me that the raisins in the cereal were cockroaches. I knew he was joking, but I hate cockroaches, so I started crying.

24. If I'm ever at an event with a chocolate fountain, I will be the one dipping potato chips in it. And it always starts a trend.

25. I once caught a hot dog shot from a cannon at a Cardinal's game.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Lemon Rosemary Crock-Pot Chicken

I love my crock-pot, I really do, bit I have been neglecting him lately. Why? There is no good reason, no excuses. The crock-pot makes it so easy for anybody to have a yummy dinner on the table at a reasonable hour on a weeknight with minimal work. Which is why I vow, with you all as my witnesses, to use mine more. Now I won't go crock-crazy, like another Stephanie. She made a crock-pot recipe EVERY DAY last year. Wowsers! This recipe is from that blog. It's pretty straight forward and simple-the only thing I did differently from her is I left the skin on my chicken. I like fat, dontcha know.

Like I said, it's super-simple. Not even a recipe, really. Just take a chicken, rub it inside and out with salt abnd pepper, stick half a lemon and 4 or 5 peeled garlic cloves in it's bum, put it in the crock-pot, cover it with lemon slices and scatter some fresh rosemary branches and more peeled garkic cloves around, cook on low for 8-10 hours, eat. I made some roasted baby green beans to go with the chicken. For those, slice up a couple of shallots thinly, halve some garlic cloves, toss the green beans, shallots and garlic with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the shallots have gone brown and crispy. Make sure you have some warm crusty bread with this meal, too, as the chicken will be surrounded by a flavorful liquid that you'll want to sop up.