Not Springsteen. Or Hogg. Or Hugo. (Though of the three I’d definitely pick the latter.) No, but last week we entertained a few friends for dinner, among them a former boss of mine. A tiny dynamo of awesome with perhaps the best laugh ever, she remains one of my favorite people–and certainly she comes in on my guest list far ahead of Bruce, the sheriff, and even the designer.
It was a Friday night, so I wanted to keep it pretty simple and within my comfort zone. I started with tapenade and chevre toasts that led, Frenchly, into Salade Niçoise and pissaladière–a luxe little onion tart. Since I’d made the tapenade and pre-cooked most of the salad components ahead of time, I had a little more time to invest in dessert. Remembering her penchant for chocolate bread pudding (I’d even scanned an article from Martha on the topic for her at some point…), I thought that was the obvious choice.
So obvious, in fact, that I managed to pick up a loaf of challah on Tuesday. Hooray for advanced planning! I cubed it and tossed it uncovered into a bowl in the refrigerator to dry out–all the better to soak up the custard, my dear. Then, on Friday, I mixed up a quick vanilla and rum-scented custard, got out some pecans and bittersweet chocolate feves, and set to it. The dried challah soaked up a gratifying amount of custard, though next time I will add more vanilla–as in bean. Precious as they are, this is already a recipe of excess, and I think the extra flavor of the pod and seeds would be worth it. The pecans added a welcome crunch and their dusky flavor complimented the rum. I was also pleased with the chocolate. Nestled into custardy bread, the runnels of smoky, bittersweet chocolate made the unctuous pudding rather the sophisticate. Far better, I think, than going whole-hog and using either a chocolate bread or chocolate custard.
Though boss lady and our other guests approved, I think it I’ll be tinkering a bit more–which means they’ll have to come over and try it again. Win-win, no? The rum caramel I served over the pudding was somewhat dissapointing. Homemade caramel always tastes plasticky to me, and I have no idea why. I think something along the lines of a traditional hard sauce would have been better. Also, if one is using pecans, bourbon should be a no brainer. So, next time, more vanilla, and better sauce.
Recipe to come when I’ve resolved my saucy issues. Which, put like that, may be never…