Thomas Keller’s Leek Bread Pudding

This is a tale of Thanksgiving triumph. I have been wanting to make this bread pudding ever since I tried it years ago. A friend of mine brought it to our holiday party, and I was so sad that I was almost completely full by the time it arrived. It’s been in the back of my mind for a truly festive occasion ever since, but at the last minute, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I am a big proponent of not making yourself miserable in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. If you’re too exhausted to eat, then you might have missed the point (and by “you” I mean “me”). But I got an eleventh hour vote of confidence from my BFF, and I set out to tackle it!

It was actually not at all as much work as I feared, especially since I was using ciabatta, which is a much stiffer bread than the brioche the recipe calls for. This meant I didn’t have to toast it in the oven, which saved me some time.

This is what it looked like going into the oven: beautiful! And, I should add, the scent of leeks, butter, and custard in the oven is a very appetizing one.

We ate every last bit of it, and it was definitely our favorite dish of Thanksgiving. I definitely plan to make it next year, maybe adding some mushrooms and sage. In any case, this was a hit, and I’m so glad I made it.

Thomas Keller’s Leek Bread Pudding

2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch-cubed crustless brioche or Pullman loaf (I used ciabatta)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comté or Emmenthaler cheese (I used Gruyere)

-Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.
-Add leeks, chives and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
-Sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded cheese in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.
-Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt and remaining cheese. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot.

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