From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Our lovely, near-springlike, weather went off track again today. The sun never pierced its cloud cover and the temperature stubbornly refused to climb above 50 degrees. A smattering of showers convinced me to spend the day inside, but an unplanned gathering lured me, instead, to a New Year's lunch at out favorite campus hideaway, the Maple Garden. The place is always packed but it has never found favor with local food critics. To say it lacks atmosphere is an understatement. The tile floor is worn and patched and the Formica tables, which are communal, have, themselves, seen better days. The noise level can be impossible on busy days and residual heat from the very small kitchen, manned by two equally small chefs, is the only source of warmth in winter months. While the place does not have universal appeal, it is packed with Asian students who have no problem bussing their own tables and wearing coats as they eat. It's the home-style cooking that draws them in. This is not fancy restaurant fare, but it's the kind of food they've grown up with and it is cheap. And for those of us who carry on a love affair with Asia, it is a pleasant reminder of meals had on street corners and cubbies off the beaten tourist track. At any rate, our crew descended on the place this afternoon to sample special dishes they make for Chinese New year, particularly a lamb hot pot and a steamed river fish that had been recommended to us. The food and company made for a wonderful lunch, but put me in a time crunch for tonight's post. I had planned to make a Martha Washington cake as a special feature for President's Day, but I couldn't beat the clock, so I decided to make her simple bread pudding instead. This is a moist pudding that those of you who like custard will enjoy. I use a bread with a tight crumb when I make this, and while I've used cherry preserves for obvious reasons, any type of fruit preserve could be substituted. This is a fast, easy and inexpensive dish that you might want to make for President's Day. Here's how it is made.
Martha Washington's Cherry Bread and Butter Pudding...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Capital Feasts by Niki Witty
12 slices white bread
10-oz. cherry preserves
2 and 2/3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons of sugar
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8 x 2-in pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Cut crusts from bread. Spread butter on one side of each slice. Arrange four slices of bread in bottom of dish and sprinkle each lightly with cinnamon. Spread a spoonful of cherry preserves on each slice. Repeat, making two more layers.
3) Beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Add milk, almond extract and sugar and stir until well mixed. Pour over bread and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until top is a lovely golden brown and the custard is set. Serve warm from the oven. (Can be served cold also, if preferred). Yield: 6 servings.
One Year Ago Today: Bubble and Squeak Rosti
Two Years Ago Today: Skillet Lemon Souffle
Three Years Ago Today: Shrimp Cakes with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce