Recently four of our young sisters were invited to a neighbor’s house in our community for a special dinner. The next day when I asked, “So how was the dinner?”
the response was, “Phenomenal!” That didn’t surprise me knowing that the menu had featured a choice tenderloin of beef, which they all liked and
we rarely have at the Convent. What did surprise and amuse me was that each of them individually wanted to tell me about one special dish
that had put the meal “over the top” and sent it “out of the park.”
This was a savory bread pudding that included leeks, fresh mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, pancetta, and sherry. Well then, why wouldn’t that
impress anyone as a phenomenal dish? And because our brave leeks are still holding their own out in the garden, why shouldn’t we give
it a try here at home? Well, we did, and sure enough it scored a home run with the whole sisterhood. Why not try it yourself and see
what kind of a rating it gets at your house?
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Phenomenal Savory Bread Pudding
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
6cupsbreadcubed (1/2-inch-diced) from a rustic country loaf
1.5cupsGruyeregrated, or your favorite cheese (6 ounces), divided
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat.
Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
Stir in the mushrooms, sherry, 1 tablespoon onion salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere.
Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid.
Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.
Taking care of guests who are on special diets has always been a challenge that has appealed to me. We do whatever we can to accommodate the food needs of our visitors so that they can be blessed during their time here, without the distraction of having to worry about their food needs.
A few nights ago, our Bethany guest cook asked me to help her prepare a dinner for a visitor who was gluten-free and didn’t eat red meat. She had turkey cutlets, and assorted vegetables so we set about to make something that we hoped would satisfy two people, and do so in a short amount of time. This result was more than satisfying to both guests and cooks.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pan, finely mince half the cleaned mushrooms and all the scallions. Sauté in melted butter till soft and golden adding sage, 1/4 c sherry and simmer till soft and liquid is absorbed.
Spread 1/2 mixture on each cutlet. Roll up and fasten together with toothpick if necessary.
Brown each cutlet in remaining butter. Finish cooking in 325 degrees oven about 15 minutes.
Add remaining sherry to onion mushroom mixture and simmer. Pour over cutlets after plating them.
We served these with fresh asparagus,mashed yam with a few halved mushrooms as garnish.
I love fall — just the smells hanging in the air fills me with a sense of adventure. Woody smoke, apples, root vegetables, leaves burning…it is all there beckoning us to pay attention. The other day, the Sisters were given a very generous donation of pumpkins from a local nursery. It was a beautiful sight seeing them lining our walk in all different shapes and sizes. Being the thrifty sort and hating to see anything go to waste, I knew we must use these not just to beautify our property, but to eat before they went bad. When I got the call that a lunch was needed to feed our community of 200 people, I knew just the thing – homemade pumpkin soup – Delightful! We set about cutting the pumpkins into large chunks, roasting them in the oven, and then transferring them to our skillet where we turned it all into a yummy creamy pumpkin soup. When we were all done, we still had pumpkins left over! (It felt a bit like the feeding of the 5000!). I remembered that a friend, returning from Italy, had brought me a wonderful recipe of a whole, roasted pumpkin layered with ham, sautéed vegetables and cheese. It’s a perfect recipe to try at this time of year, especially with Thanksgiving just around the corner.
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Pumpkin stuffed with Vegetables and Cheese
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
1 hr30 min
5 1/2lbpumpkin(or whatever would be a good size for your family)
Cut the head of the pumpkin, making an incision horizontally about 2 inches down from the stem
Place the top back on the pumpkin, wrap it in tin foil and place in a preheated oven for about one hour or until the pumpkin is almost fork tender.
Remove from oven, let it cool slightly and remove the seeds. With the spoon, gently remove some of the flesh from inside the pumpkin and reserve.
Generously salt and pepper the interior of the pumpkin.
In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and add the butternut squash and parsnips. Sprinkle with kosher or onion salt and pepper.
When they are partially cooked, remove from the skillet
Add onions and peppers to the same skillet, again sprinkling with salt and pepper.
Once they have cooked a few minutes, add the mushrooms, followed by the zucchini, a few minutes later. Sautéing slightly.
While the vegetables are cooking, grate your cheese and set aside and slice your ham into thin strips.
Once the vegetables are prepared, in the cavity of your pumpkin, start layering in this order: ham, baby spinach, assorted vegetables, the reserved pumpkin, swiss cheese, parmesan cheese and repeat – two or three times, ending with cheese.
Place the top on the pumpkin, place the pumpkin in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet, and return to the oven for about 45 min. or until heated through and cheese is bubbly. Let rest a few minutes and slice when ready to serve.
Andiamo Mangiare! For a meal, serve this with homemade bread or rolls and a salad.
This week I am in an unfamiliar kitchen that is “equipment-challenged.” Anyone that has worked with me will tell you I am a “from-scratch” cook and have been known to look down on packaged mixes and ready made products. However in my older years I am mellowing in my opinions… So when I wanted to make chicken-pot-pie for a crowd this week and knew I lacked a pastry cutter and rolling pin, I realized that this was one of those moments to put aside pride! So off to the store for some pre-made pie crust. I did however make my own broth. Why waste boiling a whole chicken? Chicken-pot-pie is almost the first thing I think of when the leaves start to turn in earnest.
The kitchen was really busy last night. Eight of us were buzzing around cooking for an upcoming party. Really great energy. As much as I think I am a person who prefers to be alone, I love the energy of being in the kitchen with a crowd of people. Don’t get me wrong — there is something to cooking alone — being there in the quiet, creating something delicious for someone else to enjoy. It ministers to my spirit, and I sometimes get great ideas and thoughts about other projects. But a group that is working well together, chaotic as it might be, also ministers to the whole group in a way that can’t be duplicated. In the middle of this I was putting together my favorite Beef Mushroom Barley soup for guests and a retreat group the next day. What could be better on a cold rainy day! My brother in law just came through and tasted the soup. He said it needed some red wine, so I added a splash. He was so right!
We leave our leeks in the garden to enjoy through the winter months. I took advantage of the January thaw to pluck a few for inspiration. I love using things up in a creative way, and I remembered that I had a few bags of croutons in the freezer, left over from our “O Antiphon” Party at Christmas, where we had served up a hot cheese dip on hollowed out bread bowls. I immediately thought of a savory bread pudding. I also found some sauteed mushrooms in the freezer — a treasure! So I added a little celery, some eggs and cream, and voila! I had tonight’s side dish for a roast, or today’s lunch with a salad and crusty bread.
Savory Bread Pudding with Leeks and Mushrooms
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Savory Bread Pudding With Leeks And Mushrooms
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
45 - 52mins.
10cupsbread(about 1 pound of bread), toasted and cubed in 1