Tomato Bread Pudding
This food blogging thing is really fun! For my money, there is nothing I like more than request cooking. I mean, when somebody asks for it and I have to cook it.
"Since you are so adept at making it up, I thought I'd ask for help with a quest I've been on for a couple of years. It's what I'd call a tomato bread pudding, a savory dish but erring to custard rather than bread. I've made several versions and all have been disappointing. But I continue to have this mind/mouth vision of a creamy savory custard paired with soft slices of tomato held intact with custard/tomato-soaked bread. I see it slicing, like a tart except no crust."
Fortunately, I had on hand all the ingredients I needed and I couldn't wait to get to the kitchen to give it a try. I think the result is pretty close to the request....but I'll have to wait for Alanna to try it for the final verdict.
Tomato Bread Pudding
1-1/2 C heavy cream
1 C canned whole tomatoes, cut up
1/2 C juice from canned tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
1 day-old French baguette (about 7 oz)
1 tomato, sliced in 6 slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T butter
2 T fresh oregano, minced
2 T fresh thyme, minced
1 T fresh sage, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, hot sauce, to taste
Using a 7" diameter deep tart pan to measure, cut pieces of crust from the bread about 1/2"' thich, as wide as the loaf and about 2/3 as long as the pan is tall. Butter the pan and stand these pieces in sort of a fence around the perimeter of the pan, with the cut sides facing inward. Cut the rest of the bread in 1/2" cubes and place them in the well created by the bread "fence." Compress the cubes into the pan with your fingers. The bread cubes when compressed should be about even with the top of the bread fence pieces.
Sauté the onion in 1 T butter slowly, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
Mix herbs together.
Beat the egg and yolks briefly with a fork and then mix well with the cream, cooked onions, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, garlic and 3/4 of the herbs. Correct seasoning.
Pour cream / tomato mixture over the bread, to cover the bread. (There may be some left over, depending on the size of the pan and how tightly packed the bread is. Any leftover custard can be cooked as directed below with or without bread in buttered ramekins, if you like, or used as an enrichment for a soup.)
Allow pudding to sit for 30 minutes, then set in a pan of boiling water that reaches halfway up the sides of the tart pan and bake in a preheated 350º oven 45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, lay the tomato slices over the top of the pudding and sprinkle with the remaining herbs.
Paint tomato slices with olive oil when the pudding comes out of the oven and then allow pudding to rest about 30 minutes before unmolding.
To be honest, I haven't yet figured out what sort of sauce is best with this. I'm thinking a dollop of sour cream, possibly with a some herbs mixed in, but I'd appreciate some suggestions. A rich cheesy white sauce, like a mornay, might be nice, but the dish is already fairly rich. Perhaps if served with a nice roast chicken, instead of stuffing or potatoes, some gravy or seasoned pan juices would be the perfect sauce. I could also see this dish on the side with braised shortribs and a salad, or maybe paired with a mushroom ragout. Anyway, suggestions on this front are welcome!
Note: for a related dish and a few follow-up notes on this experimental dish, see the post Tomato Flan. Also, as with most of the dishes published on stephencooks.com, this is a work in progress: ingredient amounts are approximate and may change as I test this further, but normally this polishing of recipes takes years in my kitchen, not days -- the bottom line is, if you try it, you're on your own! See my Site Notes for additional information about related topics. Also, if you do try it and come up with an improvement, please let me know so we can all benefit.