Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is It Pretty? No. Is It Good? Yes.

Another example of the most comforting dishes being the worst to photograph.
Oh, I tried. Intact, in the dish. Scooped out, on plates. Many angles of light. Close up; out far.
But. Exactly.
This is homely food.
It's Deborah Madison's recipe for savory bread pudding from Local Flavors, made with the ultimate spring ingredients of morels, asparagus and green garlic. Well, of course, plus bread, eggs, milk, shallots and Gruyere cheese. Oh, and butter. Pepper. Salt.
Marjoram. Parsley.
We've used Madison's technique a zillion times, but this is the first time we've ever followed her ingredients list exactly.
I am a dumb, dumb bunny.
Madison is a genius.
I have loved every one of the riffs I've ever done on her bread pudding, but this one was Da Bomb.
Please, follow Deborah Madison's recipes to a T the first time you try them. She's that good.
Then you can experiment.
I have to wonder what it's like in Madison's kitchen when she's working up recipes. Does she just KNOW what to do, or does she fool around a million times until it's perfect?
I'm guessing she just knows.


Dagny said...

I'm salivating.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: Yes. That good!
Glad to hear about your appetite.

Mary Coleman said...

You are so right about Deborah Madison. She outthinks cooks. Just did a Jicama Salad from Greens Cookbook and could not come up with anything to improve it. This bread pudding sounds wonderful!

Judith said...

Oh I *love* her! I haven't had a look at local flavors, but I took the great big one whose name now escapes me out of the library to copy recipes from. When I started going through it I realised there was no way I could just pick and choose. Not only are the recipes perfect for my lifestyle and cooking style, but the basics and tips are so useful. I ended up saving up Lexis points (a reward system for a law search engine where you earn points to get free stuff) for several months until I had enough to get my own copy, and it just arrived last week. I can't wait to start trying the recipes. I just know that cookbook is going to be my Bible.

Anna Haight said...

That looks like it tasted good indeed. I made an ugly but good dish myself today, now I have the guts to publish it!

Heather said...

Oh good god. I've been thinking about savory bread puddings for at least the last two Thanksgivings in a row. I guess I don't hafta wait!

Linda said...

Can you print the recipe? Did I miss it somewhere?

ChrisB said...

I love 'homely' dishes and I am drooling~ it's cold wet and miserable here in the UK so this would go down well!

Anna Banana said...

I'm a big fan of Deborah Madison. My 2 favorites are from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. They're both on page 600, tofu dishes my kids will eat. Hoping the savory bread pudding/strata from this book will be popular.

By the way, cookiecrumb, thank you for the Ma Po Tofu link a while ago. Chile bean sauce (aka Szechuan bean sauce) now makes fried rice and other formerly bland things much more interesting.

cookiecrumb said...

Mary Coleman: Even the recipes you *can't believe* would work... come out superb. I'm sorry I don't use her book more, but I'm not much of a recipe person.

Judith: What a great story. I'm so happy you finally got the book; it IS a bible.

Anna Haight: Perfect for these damp days we've been having. (I'm looking forward to taking a peek at your "ugly" food.)

Heather: No, don't wait. And don't use T-giving seasonings like sage and... (what IS it that makes T-giving foods taste so T-giving?). Try it now. Spring flavors.

Linda: I hate typing out recipes so I rarely include them... But you're in luck; the Washington Post ran a version of it at

ChrisB: I make your cottage pie ALL The Time, so I hope you will give this a try and think of ME!! (Link to recipe above.)

Anna Banana: I don't use that book as often as I should... Thanks for the nudge.
You are welcome for the chili bean sauce! That makes me happy.
For a new, fun, Korean nudge toward hot condiments, go check out Heather's blog (she just commented, above) and search for -- of all things -- venison.

Greg said...

Pretty darn tasty I bet.I always forget how much I love Gruyere chees.

El said...

You know, CC, I was going to comment on your last post that one dish that's gone all unpopular is the humble casserole, and my goodness, you go and post a casserole! I worship at the altar of Ms Madison. I made her corn cakes this morning for breakfast (from VCFE: it took her 6 years to make that book) did we eat them quickly. She's great!

Stacie said...

I think you may be right, I think she just knows! Working in veggie kitchens, I used her as The Word and for great reason. Who needs meat when veggies taste that good!
p.s I love meat.

katiez said...

I have a wonderful potato, ham and broccoli gratin... When I have tried (often) to take a pic they always look like, well, like it's already been eaten.... Maybe I should fake it and do it raw....
This, knowing what it is, looks wonderful!

kudzu said...

I always love to remember the name of the Italian cookies they call "brutti ma buoni" --- ugly but good, homely little lumps of sweetness. It can apply to all sorts of edibles.

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Gruyere is just one of the tasty secrets. I think Cranky might even have grated "a little too much" for this recipe.

El: LOL! I am the casserole queen. I have so much old, fusty Corningware... Now I'm prowling through Madison's books for more recipes.

Stacie: As the guy said on the sports talk show, "If God didn't intend for us to eat cats, why'd he make them outta meat?"
Meat's OK. Even Deborah Madison eats meat.

Katie Z: "Already eaten"! Ha ha. Like that's going to keep us from making these beloved, ugly dishes!

Kudzu: OMG, did you see DancingMorganMouse's recent post, based on this very phenom, titled "Brutto Ma Buono"?
Tsk. All my worldly, cultured friends!

Lore said...

I think there must be an unwritten rule somewhere:"The tastiest is not always the prettiest". Anyone who's been giving cooking a chance knows this, so we might as well publicly admit it :D.
That being said, I really need to wipe my drool off the keyboard!

Erin S. said...

ugly?? no way. I love the cheesy brown top--looks delish to me!

cookiecrumb said...

Lore: Aw, thanks. I don't even think that rule is unwritten; it's written now! :D
You're "seeing" how beautiful it is because you have lots of experience with good food.

Erin S: I guess you can always pretty up an ugly mess with browned cheese on top! Yum.

limoncello said...

I make over 50 pots of soup a year, and a fair number of casseroles. As someone posited, "What's a casserole but REALLY thick soup?"
An adaptation of the brown rice/tofu/veggie casserole from "Greens" (sprinkle it with gomasio!) is really wonderful. Much better than it sounds - promise.
I Had to ask someone to find and type up the bread pudding recipe for me. What did you do for 'shrooms, CC? I love, love, love morels and can't abandon them in this one. But the price just "dropped" to $37/pound! Yikes.

Off to find the ma po tofu and cottage pie recipes....

limoncello said...

PS: If you enjoy the book sprinkled with gomasio (probably *not* better than it sounds), you'll LOVE the casserole with a dusting of the stuff!

cookiecrumb said...

Limoncello: I like your observation on soups::casseroles. Heh. And I think a pressure cooker is a fast slow cooker (seriously; same stuff goes into them).
Morels are $28 a pound at our market; we subbed half fresh shiitakes (good!).

Catherine said...

I love Deborah Madison, but I always cut back massively on the amount of cream, cheese, and diary she uses. I generally use her as a guide to combinations. Her savory puddings are delectable, but they're awfully good in lighter versions too. Hmm morels...I think I'm going to have to try this!

limoncello said...

I realize it's a little late in the game, but I loved this recipe so much I had to come back and thank you for pointing it out.
I did indeed buy the morels at the CC market (about 3 weeks ago) along with the last of the green garlic for the season. Split 50/50 morels and crimini.
You know what's sweet about this recipe? I love that it's got perfect spring elements in a classic winter dish. And in spring, you kinda have to hedge your bets, ya know?

limoncello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cookiecrumb said...

Limoncello: Squee! You made me happy. I'm pleased you loved the recipe, and now you have a technique for other seasonal vegetables. (I should have told you about the time I made this bread pudding with peaches and sweet cheeses; no garlic.)