Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday Traditions

I lament the loss of summer, I really do, I get frustrated about the homogeneity of the produce section. However winter brings a whole different cooking approach; my feeling about winter is you can't cook with enough booze. Come wintertime I am warming up all sorts of vegetables and meats with sherry, Madeira, Grand Marnier, Pernod, Brandy and regular old wine. Cooking straight out of the liquor cabinet.

Thanksgiving preparation usually marks the watershed trip to the liquor store to purchase all sorts of booze we don't drink, well, most of it. The one exception is the Grand Ma. I used to make the cranberry sauce with it and the ritual went, a shot Grand Ma for the relish and a shot of Grand Ma for the cook, and any other cooks (Jim), to sip to make the chores a little easier. When the bottle of Grand Ma is all gone (and it usually lasts through January and sometimes February) that marks the official end to the holiday season. We now use Jim's cranberry recipe, which uses a bottle of wine, but we still keep the Grand Ma tradition. Grand Ma also helps with the hanging of the lights on the house, tree decorating, cold weather in a town that doesn't believe in insulation and generally making merry; feel free to use in place of egg nog.

I've never met a mushroom that didn't want to be paired with a fortified wine. This 'bread pudding' has replaced our stuffing or dressing or whatever you may call it. I originally found this recipe in Food&Wine, but it was not playing by the winter cooking rules, so I ‘corrected’ it. In spite of what F&W says Jim has found letting the mixture soak overnight creates a creamier texture, but not longer than just one night. And please excuse the mess of brown that is the photo, it tastes better than it photographs.

Mushroom Bread Pudding (Adapted from Food & Wine) Serves 8

4 cups bread cubes from a Challah loaf

1.5 lbs. mixed mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup chopped shallot

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups half and half

4 large eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Madeira

salt + pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Bake bread cubes on baking sheet about 12 minutes until golden brown.

Heat the butter in a pan, cook the shallot until just tender, about 3 minutes, add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and continue to saute until mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 10-12 minutes. Add the Madeira and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add in parsley, stir and remove from the heat. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, half and half, cheese, more salt and pepper together. Add in bread crumbs and mushroom mixture. Toss to coat. Store in fridge 6-24 hours. Toss the mixture every few hours.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Pour mixture in to a large casserole or individual ramekins. I use two large 7" ramekins. Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is crusty and interior has set.

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