I always trust Martha Stewart recipes. I don’t know why, I just do. They are usually well tested and come out like the picture depicted online. It turns out that the recipe I used to make this savory dish, that should really be on your next Thanksgiving Day spread, was really from Thomas Keller — legendary Chef and Owner of the French Laundry and Per Se. Now I know that the recipe is legit.
If you love leeks as much as I do, then you will love this dish. If you love crispy bread and cheesy filling. You will eat this entire dish with no remorse. Chefs often speak of the holy trinity in cooking — onion, carrot and celery. I think that the leek is the first alternate. The vegetable called up from the minor league affiliate, ready to step in for duty. In this dish, leeks are the only vegetable. Therefore, go big or go home. Use lots of them. I used three big ones, and next time I might use 6. Also, make sure you get a fresh brioche. While the recipe says to remove all crust, I omitted this step. The bread was so fresh and the crust was not too thick that it tasted totally fine. I also made a few adjustments, mostly to make it have less cream. I also used lactaid free milk, but feel free to load yours up with lactose.
Serves about 10-12 as side
Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart via Thomas Keller
2 cups leeks (white and light-green parts only), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves
3 large eggs
4.5 cups milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comte or Emmentaler (I used emmentaler)
Special Equipment – Parchment Paper – cut parchment paper the size of your skillet.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Fill a large bowl with water and add leek slices. Separate leeks with your hands, getting rid of any dirt.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat; using your hands, lift leeks out of water and transfer to skillet. Cook, stirring often, until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until leeks release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add butter to skillet and stir to emulsify; season with pepper. Cut a parchment paper round the same size as the skillet with a 1-inch hole in the center and set round in skillet. Cook leeks, stirring every 10 minutes, until very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in a tablespoon water to re-emulsify. Remove and discard parchment lid.
While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in oven for about 20 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until dry and lightly toasted. Keep a watchful eye, no one wants burned bread. Transfer to a large bowl. Add leeks to bread; toss to combine. Add chives and thyme.\
In another large bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Add milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg; whisk to combine. Set custard mixture aside.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread half of the leek mixture in baking dish and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat process with remaining leek mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Pour enough of the custard mixture over leek mixture and press gently on bread so it soaks up the custard. Let soak for 15 minutes.
Pour remaining custard over leek mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and season with salt. Transfer to oven and bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours.