I tend to celebrate Thanksgiving twice: once with my friends (in the form of an annual potluck) and once with my family. What I love about Thanksgiving is that every year, it reminds me how great my family and friends are. Around this time of year, everyone has so much energy, so much light. It’s contagious.
Our annual “friends Thanksgiving,” which normally happens in San Francisco, was somewhat up in the air this year. The house of friends that usually put it on split up–everyone went their separate ways, to live in different parts of the city and the Bay, by themselves, with significant others. It seemed like it would be the end of an era and it made me incredibly sad. The months leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d drop not-so-sly hints about hoping that our tradition’s ring-leader would step up to the plate and gather everyone around this year, despite our changed circumstances. When I finally got the evite in my email, my heart jumped. A tradition that I have only been a part of for five years would continue!
That’s the funny thing about Thanksgiving – some traditions seem to live forever (like the fact that I am always responsible for the cranberry sauce), some come and go, and some evolve into something different, but equally loved. We celebrated our friends Thanksgiving in the East Bay this year. Some of us have gotten married. Some of us have started new jobs. Some of us have bought homes. We met early in the day (another new occurrence) and we feasted. As with every friends Thanksgiving, I came home with a warm feeling in my heart (and my stomach). That’s what’s great about tradition: it allows room for evolution and change.
This year was the first year I made something savory to bring to Thanksgiving, without bringing something sweet. A small evolution of my own. I got stuck on bread pudding and I followed through. The first pudding I’ve ever had was at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Custardy, bready and sweet, it hits all of the right notes. As bread is a staple at Tartine, it’s no surprise that the folks at the bakery have also developed a recipe for a savory bread pudding. It leaves room for a lot of variations- you can make it vegetarian, spicy, herby…Whatever you like. I chose to use a little bacon, swiss chard and a great sharp cheddar. This dish is perfect for a potluck. It’s great as a side dish, but would also make a fantastic breakfast. Inside, it’s custardy and tender, but up top, it’s all cheesy/bready crust.
If you, like me, are thinking of delicious things to make this Thanksgiving, I hope this provides a little inspiration. Additionally, here are a few links to some of my favorite holiday-appropriate dishes from my archives and around the web:
Thomas Keller’s Fall Salad
Chickpea-Tomato Soup with Fresh Rosemary
Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash with Barley and Pecans
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Tasty looking from around the web:
Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks and Apples (from the Parsley Thief)
Winter Squash Souffle (from One Tribe Gourmet)
Make Ahead Parker House Rolls (from Real Mom Kitchen)
Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli (from Lottie and Doof)
Pumpkin Biscuits with Orange-Honey Butter (from Dine and Dish)
Double Crust Apple Pie (from A Sweet Spoonful)
Fig Cocktail (from Eat Make Read)
How to Roast a Turkey (from Simple Bites)
Savory Bread Pudding
*adapted from Tartine
1 small loaf of country bread (about 12 ounces), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 leek or onion, chopped
10 large eggs
2 cups of milk
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon of salt
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
4 ounces of bacon, diced
2 teaspoons of dried thyme (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
1 cup of swiss chard, chopped
1 1/2 cups of sharp cheddar, grated
extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If your bread is not a day old, spread the cubes out on a baking sheet and toast them for a few minutes to dry them out a bit.
2. Cook the bacon cubes over medium-high heat in a medium skillet until crispy, then remove them with a slotted spoon, set on a plate covered with paper towels and set aside. Pour off most, but not all of the bacon fat.
3. Add the leeks to the skillet, cooking until tender (about 5 minutes). Add olive oil, as needed. Set aside.
4. Make the custard by whisking together the eggs and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk and cream, whisking to combine. Add the nutmeg about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Whisk to combine.
5. Toss the bread cubes, nutmeg, chard, bacon, 1 cup of cheese, thyme, and leeks into the custard and stir with a large wooden spoon to mix well.
6. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Transfer the custard to the the baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
7. Bake for about an hour (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).
*If making the bread pudding ahead of time: let cool completely, cover with foil and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Re-heat in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
*Omit the bacon to make this dish vegetarian and substitute any greens (or none at all) for the chard.
Musical Pairings: Girls- Broken Dreams Club + Savory Bread Pudding
Check out today’s Musical Pairing on the Turntable: Girls – Broken Dreams Club.