Sunday, September 16, 2007

top chef sara m.'s savory tomato bread pudding

A few episodes ago on “Top Chef Miami”, Sara M., one of the contestants, made tiny little savory tomato bread puddings as an appetizer, and they looked delicious. It didn’t win, sadly, because the judges were much more taken with the third serving of beef carpaccio this season, but as a consolation prize they were nice enough to kick off Sweaty Howie. Still, when I watched the episode, the only thing I wanted to eat was one of those bread puddings, and I went to the Bravo! website to find the recipe.

Trouble started right there. The recipe listed is for ten or more people, and I live alone. Also, it called for an inexact amount of bread: three baguettes. Is a baguette the same size everywhere? The baguettes at Food City (home of the claw machine) are two feet long, and I was wary of any recipe that required six feet of bread. Fortunately a nice poster on the Television Without Pity forums explained that s/he had made it and how much bread they used: three two-foot-long baguettes. Knowing that, though, I was able to half the recipe to a much more tolerable one and a half baguettes. I had a half baguette already because I made crostini with herbed cheese and olive tapenade last weekend, so I really only had to buy one.

The recipe said you had to finely dice the baguette. This sounded easy until I tried it.

diced baguette

It’s really hard to cut round bread into square pieces. Fortunately, by the time I finished the half baguette and started on the whole one, I remembered seeing Sara M. cutting up long strips of bread, and once I starting slicing into strips and then cubes, it was much easier.

finished dicing

After the bread was ready, the recipe said I had to mix milk and tomato paste in the blender. This recipe used a lot of dishes, by the way. The paste and milk mixing didn’t sound gross until I started doing it, blending the milk and slowly adding the paste.

milk and tomato paste

It looked like the most disgusting milkshake ever.

In true “Top Chef” fashion, though, there is a container from the Glad Family of Products sitting in my sink in that picture.

After the tomatoshake was ready, the (halved) recipe called for me to add three cloves of garlic and a finely diced quarter of “a large red onion” until “translucent”. Now, I know what “translucent” means; it’s in between “clear” and “opaque”. I have no idea what it means in relation to food, though, so I decided to just cook the hell out of it. Sorry, sauté the hell out of it.

onion and garlic

My finely diced onion came out a hell of a lot better than Casey’s did during the “Restaurant Wars” episode, by the way.

After the cream was added, I mixed it with the tomatoshake and five whole eggs (I broke the yolks before pouring in, so it would be easier to mix) in a large bowl. It looked like vomit, a large bowl of orange vomit.

it looks gross

It looked even more like vomit when the bread was added.

even grosser

Even worse, I decided that the easiest way to mix it and be sure it got all the way through without breaking the bread down too much was to do it with my hands. This left them covered in sticky, tomato-smelling orange slime, and I had to turn the sink on with my elbow to wash them off. While the bread was resting? sitting? absorbing? congealing? for 45 minutes I got to work on the basil cream that goes on top. Unlike Sara M.’s, mine was think and clumpy.

basil cream

This might be because I didn’t push it through a tanis, like the recipe said, but that might be because I don’t own a tanis or know what it is. Either way, hers looked kind of liquidy and mine kept the consistency of frosting no matter how much I beat it. I guess I need that tanis after all.

Rather than put it in a muffin tin, like Sara M. did, I used a baking dish, and made it as one big batch that I just cup up when it was done, like portioning a lasagne. I did my best to drop my globs of basil cream evenly over the top, but some of it got bigger globs than others. Still, I think it turned out pretty well.

finished tomato bread pudding

It was even better reheated in the oven today.

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