Happy Holidays!

By Sergio Lombardi

Happy New Year to all our readers out there. I am quite sure the last week has been a delightful time filled with friends, family, feasting and, in my case, Fritz. Yes, Dominique’s dog has taken up residence in my quarters during her time back home. He has, for the most part, been behaving himself.

The following recipes are my gift to our readers. These are dishes that I have enjoyed for the past few years, and usually am requested to make for gatherings and parties. Enjoy them both!

Apple Bread Pudding
This dish is a delightful dessert that is as at home in a five-star restaurant as it is in a country kitchen. In fact, it was in the dining room of a country farmhouse that I was first introduced to this recipe during college over Christmas break, when a kind family invited me to their house for Christmas day dinner. Firmer yet more subtle than an apple pie, this dessert has all the sophisticated flavors of a flan while also maintaining the heady overtones of a true country dessert. Serves six.

Ingredients:
4 Eggs
1 Cup of milk
1 Cup of apple cider (apple juice will do, but cider adds a nice touch)
1 Cup of beer (Any will do, however, the darker the ale, the better)
3 Apples, diced
1 Loaf of bread – should be enough to fill five cups when slightly compacted
1 Teaspoon of cinnamon
1 Teaspoon of nutmeg
1 Teaspoon of cinnamon
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
¾ Cup of Sugar
1 Pinch of salt

1. Whisk together the four eggs in a large mixing bowl until yolks and whites are mixed.

2. Add all ingredients save the bread and apples to the eggs, mixing thoroughly to ensure consistency.

3. In another bowl, mix together the bread and apples so that apples are intermixed in the bread and not clumped together.

4. Prepare a two-liter baking dish by greasing lightly with butter. Place bread and apples into this dish, making sure to maintain a homogenous mixture of the two.

5. Drizzle the batter over the bread and apples until the entire batter has been poured into the baking dish.

6. Using a spatula, press the bread down into the batter until the bread is barely above the level of the batter.

7. Let dish sit for half an hour (or more – this more a minimum amount of time than a maximum) in the refrigerator to allow the bread to absorb the mixture.

8. Preheat the oven to 177 (C) degrees, and prepare a water bath for the pudding using a larger pan. I recommend placing the dish with the pudding into the pan, the pan into the oven and then adding the water cup by cup until the water level is a centimeter or so beneath the edge of the pudding dish. Now that you know your water level, take the pudding out and let the water preheat in the oven – if you don’t, the pudding will take considerably longer to bake.

9. Bake for fifty-five minutes to an hour, or until a knife blade inserted into the pudding comes out clean.

Let the pudding sit and cool for a few minutes and then serve warm, or refrigerate to serve cold, later. The dessert goes wonderfully with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. For breakfast the next morning, panfry the pudding in a hot griddle for a dish not unlike French toast – for extra zest, combine butter and brown sugar into a deep caramel sauce such as the one featured in the picture.

Apple-Bacon Cheese Dip
This dish has more European tones than the other recipe I’ve given. The bacon ends up implying a deeper and stouter flavor than one would think, complimenting the crisp sweetness of the apples. While I have added embellishments over the years, the idea of a bacon/apple cheese dip originated from a good college friend and has been a favorite of almost every event I have hosted. I would even suggest trying prosciutto in place of the bacon – this was not an option for me as, unfortunately, when I was making lunch the other day, a half-kilo of prosciutto mysteriously disappeared from the countertop and Fritz had no clue as to where it went. I can only assume burglars.

This recipe assumes the dip will be baked and served in bread bowls; however, this is not necessary and regular casserole dishes will do as well. The bread bowl is delicious, however, as all the flavors of the dip have been baked into it. Serves ten.

Ingredients:
4 Cups of Parmesan (I prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano, but this is obviously more expensive) cheese
4 Cups of sharp Cheddar cheese
2 apples (the sourer, the better – initially sour flavors tend to develop into much more subtle tart flavors in the baking process)
32 slices of bacon, crumbled
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
225g of cream cheese
450g of sour cream
½ cup of cooking wine
½ cup of olive oil
2 good-sized French-loaves

1. Preheat the oven to 177 (C) degrees.

2. Mix together the cheeses, diced apples, cream cheese and sour cream.

3. Start frying the bacon, setting aside on a paper-towel covered plate to cool. Halfway through the thirty-two slices, empty the grease – however, save the remaining grease, as you’ll need it later.

4. Add the bacon to the mix, either crumbling by hand or using scissors to cut it up into small pieces.

5. Dice up the garlic cloves and onions as finely as you are able, and let these sauté in the remaining bacon grease. A few minutes in, add the white wine – not only is the smell divine, but the wine helps clean the pan of bacon grease.

6. Add the now sautéed onions and garlic to the mix, stirring thoroughly.

7. If using a casserole dish, skip to step 9. If using the bread bowls, cut off the top off lengthwise of each loaf and hollow out the middle, saving the interior for dipping. Be sure, however, to leave the top of the loaves intact.

8. Lightly cover the loaves entirely with olive oil – this prevents them from burning.

9. Spoon the cheese dip into the hollowed loaves, until the level of the dip is barely above the rim of the bread.

10. Place the tops of the loaves back onto the bread bowls, and cover both of them and aluminum foil. Before doing so, you may cover them seasoning, such as pepper or rosemary, if you like. Place both into the oven and let them bake for fifty-five minutes.

I hope everyone enjoys the beginning weeks of a brand new year, and that 2011 is one of joy, success and good eating for you all.
Cheers,
Sergio

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~ by Japan Blog Review on January 11, 2011.

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