Coming down from the holidays is not always an easy thing.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is simultaneously sluggish and frantic, filled with pine needles to sweep out the door, unfinished business to wrap up, and sometimes a freak snowstorm to shovel away.
And in my case, another New Year’s party to plan.
In years past, our Boston hosts, Bryan and LeeMichael, chose a specific country to toast through food and drink.
But this party’s culinary theme would be farm-to-table in honor of the newly-renovated 200-year-old farmhouse that we were celebrating in.
Don’t think the deliciously ironic twist of choosing this menu during one of the most dormant growing seasons of the year was lost on us. I nixed scary genetically engineered Chilean tomatoes in favor of a menu that showed off what a gal could do with few bulbs and roots.
The platters of Rubenesque roasted chickens, freshly smoked ham from a neighbor’s Pennsylvania farm, sweet and crunchy fennel salad, and a dairy’s worth of small-producer American cheeses left no one lamenting the lack of summer corn, heirloom tomatoes, or delicate asparagus.
Plates were licked clean, rugs were rolled back for dancing, and we welcomed the coming year with full glasses and bellies.
And no one could keep their forks out of the kale, bacon, and leek bread pudding.
Loosely inspired by the leek bread pudding in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, the dish is also the latest in my ongoing quest to convince the population at large that kale is the greatest of greens.
Judging from the reaction to the two(!) casseroles that were demolished over the course of the night, I’d say kale has a few new fans in the Boston area.
I’ll admit that the bacon fat permeating each bread cube no doubt did its part to help the cause, but never stole the show.
In the wee hours of January 1, the four of us picked at the last toasty bits in the casserole dish with our fingers, savoring the final minutes of the night and marveling at how quickly and splendidly another New Year’s party passed before our eyes.
Here’s to next year, guys, and many more to come.
- 1 bunch curly green kale
- 2 small to medium leeks, or 1 big honking leek
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 loaf ciabatta or other rustic Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Thoroughly wash the kale and the leeks.
- De-stem the kale by folding each leaf over like a book and running the knife up the side of the stem to remove.
- Slice both the kale and the leeks horizontally into thin ribbons.
- Slice the bacon horizontally into 1/2-inch thick strips and scrape into a large sauté pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, as the bacon renders its fat.
- When the bacon begins to crisp, add the leeks and continue to stir occasionally until they soften, about 5 minutes more.
- In batches, stir the kale into the pan, making room to add more as it wilts. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender.
- While the bacon and vegetables cook, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, and spread evenly across 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- Bake for 10 minutes to lightly toast the cubes, then transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
- Once the kale is tender, toss the bacon and vegetables with the bread cubes, then transfer to a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.
- Whisk the eggs, cream, milk, pepper, and salt until fully blended and smooth.
- Pour the egg custard evenly over the bread in the casserole dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the liquid has set and the bread is golden brown and crispy on top.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 439Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 131mgSodium: 572mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 13g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
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