Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goldilocks Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is the quintessential comfort food. All warm and redolent of cinnamon, spices, raisins, custard and sugar, it makes the ideal breakfast food. It very often reminds me of french toast with its "custardy" personality, so it is great for breakfast and brunch. Sometimes however, it is one note perked up with a "rum sauce" or "whiskey sauce" and that is okay, I just opt for the pudding itself to be able to stand alone with a good mix of flavors and textures. Sometimes it's too smooth, sometimes it's too sweet, like Goldilocks I was always looking for "just right." So here is my attempt to find the "just right" bread pudding...

I generally keep some variety of dried fruit: raisins, apricots, pears, peaches, mangoes which are flavorful and pack more of a punch in their dried form. For this version of my bread pudding I chose raisins, dried pears and combined them with orange and lemon zest, and the Granny Smith apple is for added moisture and flavor. I still kept some traditional flavor with the addition of extract and the expected spices. In my humble opinion the most important ingredient in bread pudding is the bread! For this recipe I chose an artisan bread that found at Whole Foods called "Seeduction." This bread has poppy, sunflower and sesame seeds and quite frankly it is not one of my favorites but ended up being perfect for the bread pudding. It lent a textural quality to the bread pudding and it merged well with the custard. It makes the bread dominate and not the custard. There are usually three types of milk in my fridge: soy, almond and buttermilk. I chose the almond milk to make the custard, and then topped the dish with sliced almonds as a complement and for added crunch. The serving you see is topped with toasted coconut (more crunch). I hope you enjoy this recipe it is addictive, flavorful, moist and has a great texture...and a little vanilla ice cream doesn't hurt either!

3 cups of bread (my choice was the grainy Seeduction bread from Whole Foods)
1/2 c raisins
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 c of dried pears, chopped
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
3 oz sliced almonds for the topping

The custard
3 eggs
3 cups almond milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash of cayenne pepper

The Method

In a large bowl combine the bread, fruit and zest. In another bowl combine the ingredients for the custard and whisk until well blended and sugar is dissolved. Pour the custard over the bread mixture and combine thoroughly, and let the mixture rest until a lot of the custard has been absorbed by the bread. You can place this in the refrigerator overnight and bake in the morning, or let it rest and marry for at least 2 hours.

Oil/butter a a rectangular baking dish (13 x 7.5) and pour the mixture into the dish and top with the sliced almonds. Bake in a preheated oven at 350ยบ for 50-60 minutes, and it should be "just right!"

Madras Curried Chicken With Jasmine Coconut Mango Rice

I love Indian curry, it has a depth of flavor and a complexity that is both a taste sensation and comforting. My first curried dish was prepared by my Aunt Mattie. She traveled the world with my Uncle Warren who was a Cultural Affairs Officer for the State Department from the 50's through the 70's. She soaked up the culture of every country they lived in and visited, bringing that exposure to her dining table in true epicurean fashion. She prepared a curried chicken dish that I vividly remember, served it with jasmine rice, naan bread and a bevy of condiments including: raisins, ground peanuts, toasted coconut, chutney...there may have been more but to my young and inexperienced taste buds these stand out in my memory.

Indian curry can range from mild to explosively hot, its heat doesn't just sear the throat but can cling to the roof of your mouth, inflame your gums and its heat can stick to you like epoxy. In my adaptation I used a combination of Sun Brand Madras Curry and a hot curry from The Spice House in Chicago, judiciously blending the hot with the mild in careful proportions. If you can handle hot Indian curry, go for it but beware!

In the following recipe I made a paste in which I marinated the chicken and once the paste is made the recipe remains easy and straightforward. Toward the end of cooking this dish I added a pint of grape tomatoes to add a little acid bite, and sliced zucchini for bulk and when finished I stirred in some chopped fresh mint. I serve this over a Coconut/Mango Jasmine Rice and have also included that recipe in another post. Many of the condiments that would traditionally adorn an Indian curry and in the rice such as coconut, raisins and dried fruit.


6 Boneless and skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite size pieces
The paste:
1 1/2 T Madras curry powder
1/2 T. Hot curry powder
1 t. ground cinnamon (rounded)
1 t. ground cardamon
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. dry mustard
2 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1" piece of ginger
2 garlic cloves
1/2 of medium onion, rough chopped
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. sesame oil
6 T. canola oil
1/4 c. chicken stock

Place the spices, ginger, garlic, onion, tomato paste, oils and chicken stock in a blender and thoroughly blend into a paste in which you can coat the chicken. If it needs thinning add a little more stock, but don't make it soupy. Toss the chicken in the paste and blend well, refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.

The vegetables:
1 red bell pepper cut into 2" strips
1 yellow bell pepper cut into 2" strips
1 medium to large onion, cut in half and sliced into 1/8" strips
2 cups lite coconut milk
1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock
1 large zucchini
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 T. chopped/minced mint
1/2 cup chopped scallions (green part)

The Procedure

Heat a deep sided non stick pan over medium high heat and sear the chicken, marinade and all for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. To the pan add the chopped bell peppers and onion and continue to saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, lower heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

While this is simmering, prepare your rice.

After 15 minutes toss in the grape tomatoes and sliced zucchini and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and cover the pan until the rice is done. When ready to serve, stir the mint into the chicken curry, plate and scoop rice over the top adding condiments of your my case I dressed it with chopped scallions

Jasmine Coconut Mango Rice

2 cups lite coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried mango
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 t. salt
2 T canola oil
2 cups Jasmine Rice

Place all ingredients (except the rice) into a 2 quart non stick sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, stir to combine and bring to a low boil. Add the rice, return to low boil, stir well and lower heat to a slow simmer and cover and continue to cook for at least 15-17 minutes. The rice to liquid ratio is increased because the coconut, and dried fruit will absorb some of the liquid, slow down the cooking time and you have to adjust for that. Some varieties of Jasmine rice cook in as little as nine minutes, some longer. The variety of Jasmine rice I use generally cooks in 9 minutes but with the addition of other dried ingredients, the total cooking time was 15 minutes for perfection.. This rice is fragrant, slightly sweet and the perfect accompaniment to a spicy curried dish.