New Orleans Bread Pudding with
Vanilla Bourbon Sauce
Back to New Orleans again, this time to the world-famous Commander’s Palace, a rambling restaurant in the Garden District described as “[a] turquoise and white Victorian fantasy of a building complete with turrets, columns, and gingerbread, [which] has been known for the award-winning quality of its food and many commodious dining rooms since 1880.” Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on what I believe to be the ultimate in bread puddings, Southern style. It was inspired by the one at Commander’s Palace, but I have taken it to the limit, even if I do say so myself. See what you think. I doubt you’ll be able to stop yourself.
YIELD: 3 ½ pounds, or one 13 x 9 x 2-icn baking dish
½ pound good-quality white bread
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 1/8 teaspoons nutmeg
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup golden raisins
¾ cup chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon salt
Vanilla Bourbon Sauce (recipe follows)
Cut the bread into ½-inch cubes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar together until they are light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in the milk, melted butter, bourbon, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Place the bread in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, and pour the liquid over the bread. Cover it and let it sit, refrigerated, for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F.
Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and stir in the orange extract, brown sugar, raisins, pecans, and salt, mixing thoroughly.
Bake the bread pudding for 40 minutes, until the custard has just et.
Serve it warm with the Vanilla Bourbon Sauce.
Vanilla Bourbon Sauce
YIELD: 2 cups
Lee Bailey was a hero of mine. A Louisiana native, he spent his career in New York as a home furnishings designer for the original ultra-stylish Henri Bendel store on West Fifty-seventh street, before he rediscovered his Southern food roots. He then wrote more books than the law allows, each more beautiful than the last. All of them made serving elegant food seem easy. He was the forefather of the “lifestyle” genre, and preached his gospel through sumptuous photographs of his friends’ houses and their marvelous recipes. I knew Lee when I first arrived in New York, and never consider the combination of bourbon and vanilla without thinking of him and the sumptuous warm pecan pie over which he served a similarly delicious sauce.
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons bourbon
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk all the ingredients together and slowly bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Strain sauce through a fine sieve, and serve it warm or cold.