Thanksgiving is less than one week away and for all of you, like myself, who are just starting to put together your Turkey Day menus, let me offer a suggestion; why not try something new this year? It’s crazy, I know, to break away from tradition and consider something other than the obligatory stuffing (or dressing, if you’re not putting it into the bird), but I’ve got something else in mind for you. This incredible side dish will go with whatever meat or meat substitute (Tofurky anyone?) is the customary centerpiece at your table. (Side note: I just learned that many Texans serve ribs on Thanksgiving. How awesome is that?!) Anyway, regardless of what other lovely foods grace your plates next Thursday, this savory bread pudding will make you and your tastebuds very thankful.
Roasted Red Pepper, Asparagus, & Goat Cheese Bread Pudding
- 2 loaves of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
- 1 bunch of asparagus (tender parts only), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (12 oz.) jar of roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- ⅓ cup fresh Italian parsley (flat leaf parsley), finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- ¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock (see recipes in Homemade Stocks)
- 8 oz. goat cheese, divided
- nutmeg to taste (optional)
- 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Blanch the asparagus: Add 1 Tbsp of salt to a medium pot of water and bring to a boil. Set a colander in the sink and have a bowl of ice water nearby. When the water has reached a boil, drop the 1-inch pieces of asparagus into the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Drain water through the colander and immediately transfer the asparagus to the ice bath to cool. Drain again and set aside.
In a large straight-sided skillet, heat oil and butter until butter has melted and just begins to foam. Add leeks and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, red peppers, reserved asparagus, and tarragon, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Carefully add sherry. Using a spatula, scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, then reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by on half. Remove pan from heat, stir in parsley, then season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly before proceeding.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together eggs, cream, and chicken or vegetable broth. Add bread cubes and sautéd vegetables to egg mixture and stir until the bread absorbs most of the liquid. Pour half of bread mixture into a buttered 9×13″ baking dish. Crumble half of the goat cheese on top, then pour remaining bread mixture over the goat cheese. Top with a second layer of crumbled goat cheese, dispersing evenly over bread mixture. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg, then let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Sidekick: Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Chablis, or Champagne.