First layer of the bread pudding

Leftover Bread for Thanksgiving

One of the perks of being in the food and bev biz is getting an obnoxious amount of free day-old bread. Baguettes, focaccia, French loaves, cornbread, etc. etc. etc. etc. This past month I would say Alfonso has eaten cornbread smothered in butter and honey with milk for breakfast three out of four weeks. Not complaining, but it does make one have to get a little creative with their bread recipes. Normally around here cornbread gets eaten right away and any other bread is tightly wrapped in several layers to keep the freezer burn out and stuck in the freezer until we are inspired or the bread starts to overtake the freezer. Like right now.

We have several baguettes just begging to be turned in to something Thankgiving-y.

Half baguettes in a basket
Half baguettes in a basket

Since Turkey Day is coming up Alfonso and I wanted to use the next couple of weeks to try out a couple of recipes to take with us for the festivities this year. This week the bread inspired two recipes. One predictable, yet incredible, dessert and one carbed up take on a Thanksgiving classic.

First layer of the bread pudding
First layer of the bread pudding
Roasted Green Bean and Crouton Casserole waiting to go in the oven
Roasted Green Bean and Crouton Casserole waiting to go in the oven

Who doesn’t love bread pudding and green bean casserole?

If you don’t have copious amounts of bread flying at you everyday you can just save your bread scraps in the freezer until you have enough for each recipe. Or buy the bread especially for these recipes and let it sit for a day or two. For the bread pudding the bread is soaked in a milk mixture and for the casserole we make them into croutons, so it is best if the bread is a bit old and more sturdy than fresh bread.

Croutons made for the casserole
Croutons made for the casserole

What’s good about both of these recipes is that there steps in each that can be done a day (in the case of soaking the bread for the pudding) or even two (in the case of the croutons for the casserole) in advance, making Thanksgiving day a little less hectic for those that do the cooking! You could even roast the beans the day before too.

Another thing that can be made in advance is the sauce for the green bean casserole. You may just have to add a few drips of hot water the next day to thin it back out. Most green bean casseroles use some kind of a cream of something soup which we don’t really like because it taste like cream of chemical soup. So, after Alfonso learned of the veluté sauce at school and we realized that it is basically the same thing we started making our own when a recipes calls for it! Do it once and you’ll never go back.

Start of the homemade cream of mushroom sauce
Start of the homemade cream of mushroom sauce
Crispy fried onions for the top
Crispy fried onions for the top

Both of these recipes are larger than what we usually make at our house of two, so if its only for a small number of people you could probably cut them both in half. But if they are for a group Thanksgiving, then go ahead and make it all!

Finished Roasted Green Bean and Crouton Casserole
Finished Roasted Green Bean and Crouton Casserole

Roasted Green Bean and Crouton Casserole

2 baguettes, 1+ days old

3 lbs fresh green beans

1 package thick cut bacon, diced

2 lbs baby bella mushrooms, diced

3 large garlic cloves

1.5 t dried thyme

2 t salt

1 t pepper

4 T flour

4 cups chicken broth (homemade if possible), warmed

1/2 heavy cream

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

For the fried onion topping:

1 large sweet onion, cut into very thin slices so that the rings are still in tact

2 eggs

2 cups flour

oil for frying

salt to taste

First, we make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the baguettes into 1 inch cubes (they don’t have to be perfect). Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Each piece of bread should have a small bit of olive oil on it. Toast the croutons for 15 minutes- they don’t need to be super crunchy. When done, take out and set aside.

Keep the oven on. Trim the green beans and just as you did for the croutons, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15 minutes. They may still be a little crunchy, but no worries as they will cook more in the casserole. When done, take out and set aside.

In a large pan fry the bacon over medium heat until desired crispiness. Remove and drain all but 2 T of the bacon fat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until slightly soft. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Let cook 30 seconds and add the flour. Let the flour cook for a minute or two- the mixture should be very dry and even sticking to the bottom, though not burned. Add a bit of the chicken stock to scrape up the stuck bits. Continue to add the rest of the broth, little bit by little bit. Once all the broth is added, cook over medium low heat until sauce reaches desired consistency- this needs to be pretty thick. Remove from the burner and add the heavy cream. Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside. FYI: this sauce is the homemade version of cream of mushroom soup- easy, right?

Turn the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Now, in a 14.5 x 11.5 casserole dish (This may be a weird size- if so, choose the closest you have) add a single layer of the croutons to fill the entire bottom of the pan. Whatever is leftover is for salad treats in your lunch this week 😉 Pour the mushroom sauce evenly over the croutons. Add the green beans evenly over the dish. Top with the parmesan cheese and fried bacon. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the bread is slightly soft on the bottom of the casserole.

To make the fried onion topping:

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Put the flour in a large bowl. Dip the onion rings in the flour then the egg then the flour again in batches. Set aside on a cooling rack. Drop the onions into the oil in small batches and fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Top the done casserole with the fried onion rings.

Now on to the sweets!

A note about this bread pudding recipe: There are many versions of bread pudding, but we are partial to a very custard-y pudding. This means lots of eggs. Also, we are not big on extremely sweet desserts so this probably has less sugar than most of it’s size, although it still has a lot. It would totally work if you just added a bit more sugar (according to your tastes) to the milk mixture.

Caramelized Apple and Walnut Bread Pudding
Caramelized Apple and Walnut Bread Pudding
Look at all that caramelized goodness!
Look at all that caramelized goodness!

Caramelized Apple and Walnut Bread Pudding

2 baguettes, 1+ days old, cut in to 1-2 inch pieces

5 1/2 cups milk

9 large eggs

1 T good vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup sugar, divided

1 stick butter, divided

3 large granny smith apples, diced

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup (maybe more-see recipe) brown sugar

2 t cinnamon divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a 12 inch long x 2-3 inch deep sized casserole dish with 3/4 of the bread cubes and set the other 1/4 aside. Whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla, 1 t cinnamon, and 1 cup of sugar together. Set aside. Toast the walnuts in a small pan over dry, medium heat, moving frequently for about 3-4 minutes. Chop in to pieces and set aside. Melt 1/2 a stick of butter in a medium frying pan over medium low heat. When melted, add 1/4 cup of sugar. When the sugar begins to melt add the apples and mix in. Let the apples cook and caramelize for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and side aside.

Now you have all the components!

Pour half of the milk mixture over the bread cubes that are in the casserole dish. Spread half the apples and half of the walnuts over the bread and milk. Push the bread down into the milk to help it absorb the liquid better. Add the last bit of bread cubes (push these down too), top with the remaining milk mixture, and add the rest of the apples and walnuts on top.

Melt the remaining butter and mix in the brown sugar and 1 t cinnamon until you have a paste. Evenly distributed this mixture over the top of the bread pudding in dollops. Let the whole dish sit out for 30-45 minutes so that the bread absorbs the liquid really well.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes (There’s a lot of milk and eggs in there!). Take off the foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Side note- this is also a great  breakfast dish to make in advance.

Morning after Thanksgiving anyone?

Stay tuned later this week for a post on Taste of Hutson Alley- a culinary event combining the talents of several different restaurants and their chefs in downtown Charleston. It is sure to be a ball!

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