Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pass the pudding

Problem: One large ziplock bag containing about a dozen small dinner rolls, given to us as leftovers by loving family.

Solution: Savory bread pudding. Or stuffing. Or, if you prefer, chunky strata.

What's the difference between these things? There isn't much of one. When you take bread, bind it with egg and milk, mix in some veggies or other items, then bake it... well, pretty much you've described each of them. Strata tends to be more slices of bread supersaturated with scrambled egg mix, then baked and sliced. Stuffing tends to be a bit dryer, and made with hunks or cubes. (I am, by the way, calling a dish "stuffing" that probably should be called "dressing," as it's never quite stuffed into anything. But it could be. Poultry, acorn squash, pork, the list goes on.) The British, by the way, would call all of these "puddings." They're very liberal with the word, whereas Americans get a bit touchy about it.

Our dish involved a bit of sage stuffing left over in the freezer. It went into the pan straight from the freezer, the way I remember my mother doing with ground beef. Perhaps food scientists would tell us not to do this (who knows?) but it's kinda fun to flip the frozen block, scrape off the cooked and defrosted part with your wooden spoon, wait a moment or two, then flip it back and repeat on the other side. It certainly makes for a fine crumble, which worked well for this use.

I tossed the cubed rolls into the drippings from the sausage, having first turned off the heat. Then I added in some craisins, golden raisins, leftover corn kernels (I was just scanning the fridge at this point) and cut up some leftover sweet potato fries. It looked very lovely and colorful in the pan. To bind, I stirred in two eggs which had been beaten with a bit of milk, pepper and herb seasoning mix. It was an odd amount for any pan I could think of, so I improvised a vessel out of foil and set it inside my big lasagna pan to bake.

The finished product was a bit crumbly--I might've used more egg mixture, which would've made more of a cohesive dish. Flavor wise, though, I can't complain. The sausage added a nice complexity and permeated the bread with that yummy comes-from-grease-but-not-greasy flavor, while the dried fruit was like punches of color on the palate. Craisins, particularly, are both tart and sweet and so do double duty. The sweet potato fries had started off creamy soft and caramelized, and became even more so. They were the softest part of the dish. Darling Husband and I felt the corn, however, was the surprise hit of the day.

I am a fan of such "puddings" and recommend making them with various combinations of ingredients. Cornbread? Yum! Chestnuts? Yum! Grated zucchini? Yum! Cubed squash? Yum! The list goes on and on.



  2. I think you meant sage sausage