Sunday, October 30, 2011

Extra Stout Extra Chocolate Cake

mmm cake
Chocolate Stout Cake. Chocolate, and stout. Two of my very favorite things, in convenient cake form. That's just bliss, right there. Gaze upon the blissness :


With an impending Snowpocalypse primed to hit Boston yesterday, we decided to hunker down with some good comfort food - specifically, Mark's Pasta Bolognese . (As for the snow...we would have barely noticed it in February...but in October, it's kind of a big deal). Mark always craves chocolate after Italian food, we happened to have some Guinness Foreign Extra Stout around (it's like regular Guinness, but even more Gunniess-y...dark, luscious, gorgeous flavor...definitely look for this if you can find it) and I've always wanted to tackle a stout cake...serendipity is a beautiful thing  !

Deb at Smitten Kitchen had a very promising looking entry (as always), which itself was a Bon Appetit adaptation of a cake from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA...definitely a lineage I could get behind. Of course, me being me, I have to do extra everything...extra stout , extra dark cocoa powder, and bittersweet chocolate ganache - for that extra chocolate flavor. That's me, extra crazy...sometimes I wonder if I can ever do anything at a normal level :)

By all means, if you have regular stout and cocoa power and chocolate (or your like your chocolate delivered with more sweetness and not so much darkness) and still want to make this cake - go for it. I think it would still be absolutely fantastic, and you won't have that moment of panic that I did when I took it out of the pan and thought I had burnt it. This is by far the blackest cake I have ever seen in my life : this where black holes come from ???

I promise, it really was baked perfectly and not at all burnt..and it has the most delicious, deep chocolately flavor you've ever experienced. If you use a less dark stout and/or chocolate, I suggest adding the 3/4 tsp of coffee powder to the ganache from the original recipe (and some wouldn't go amiss in the cake either) to enhance the chocolate flavor.

The one thing my testers all agreed on is that it needed more of the ganache, so I have upped the amounts below. And for god's sake, don't get scared off by the term "ganache" like it's super advanced ninja foodie's just melted chocolate mixed with cream. Like super thick, spreadable hot chocolate :)

Have some fun in the kitchen, and get down with your bad chocolately self !!

Extra Stout Extra Chocolate Cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, et al.

1 cup Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (or regular stout)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder (or any unsweetened cocoa powder), plus extra for dusting pan
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (or just chopped from a bar), or semisweet chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan really well, then butter it again. Seriously, can't be enough butter here...this cake does not like to let go :). Dust the inside of the pan with some cocoa powder too.

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Let cool somewhat, or you'll end up with scrambled eggs in the next step :)

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. (I suggest adding about a third of the stout mixture first, to temper the eggs - then add the rest). Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 - 40 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.


For the ganache, melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle / spread over the top of cooled cake.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Facebook Foodie Freakout 3

Bloody Screwball

As I write this, I'm of course watching football (hello, Sunday !) and the Google Chrome ad just came on...the one with the guy writing emails to his daughter. The catch line of the ad is "the internet is what you make it"...and that perfectly sums up how I am feeling this afternoon.

I've been fortunate enough to hook up with a truly awesome group of people via Facebook...well, more than one group actually. The group I'm talking about today, though, are my foodie friends. It's a not-uncommon story for Facebook - you and your friends are commenting on each other's posts, and you end up in discussions with like-minded friends of your friends. Well, of course, in my case, most of those posts are about thing leads to another, and you end up with a bunch of crazy (in the best way) foodies trying to out-cook each other. Fun people who get overly excited about food...people that can wax poetic about everything from corn smut to the best uses of lard. In short, my kind of people :) .

The best thing about this group - aside from the people all being wonderful - is that we all get so excited about each other's dishes. We all ate so much that even after a few laps around the block, we all ended up laying about on couches like Romans of old.

Feast your eyes upon this menu, and you'll see what I mean...

Smoked Shrimp and Oysters with Cajun Remoulade
Eggplant Dip with Crackers
Goat Cheese
Hangar 18 Focaccia (or, as I called it, Alien Flatbread - flatbread with salmon and capers)
(mind you, this was all before dinner, hanging out in the kitchen!)

Steamed Mussels in a wine/garlic broth
Artichokes Remoulade
Couscous Salad
Hand Loaf (a hand-shaped bison meatloaf with Scotch Bonnet mashed potatoes. As in shaped like a hand.)
Sole Farcie (stuffed with crab, scallops and shrimp)
Pasta with tuna, roasted eggplant, mushrooms, black olives, onions, tomatoes...and other things I can't remember
Vegetable Risotto
Beef and Oyster Pie with Guinness

Cranberry Sorbet
Maple Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream
Blueberry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Irish Knot Truffles

and of course, the drinks...Bloody Screwballs (blood orange martinis with gummy eyeball ice cubes), Apple Pie in the Sky (cider with spiced rum, cinnamon schnapps, and whiskey), various beers including a surprisingly good one with jalapenos, and of course wine....good lord, I'm surprised I'm even conscious today !

Most of our contributions were dishes we have already blogged about - recipe links are below the pictures. I am including a recipe for the Apple Pie drinks, as well as an updated Cajun Remoulade (I'm always tweaking that one). As for my friend's dishes...well, I'm hoping to get those recipes at some point, but I'll let them write about the dishes themselves :)
Hangar 18 Focaccia (Alien Flatbread)

Smoked Shrimp and Oysters

Cajun Remoulade

Artichokes Remoulade

Hand Loaf

Vegetable Risotto

Pasta with Tuna

Beef and Oyster Pie

Blueberry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding, crockpot version

Maple Pumpkin Pie
(Spiced Whipped Cream : )

Irish Knot Truffles

Apple Pie in the Sky

Ah, Apple Pie in the named because you'll be sky-high after drinking one :). Inspired by a similar drink at the West End Pub in Shelburne Falls...but without the 7Up, and with the addition of  one of my most beloved spirits, The Knot. What is the Knot ?

Well, it's usually found with the whiskey, though it doesn't actually say "whiskey" on the bottle. There's definitely whiskey involved, but it's also sweet and smooth and caramel-like. "Whiskey Liqueur" is probably the best description...along with "mmm", "oh yeah baby", and "omg YUM  !!". Delicious enough just in a glass by itself, it also makes the best Irish Coffee, Truffles (see above)...and mixed drinks. To wit, Exhibit A : 

Apple Pie in the Sky

4 oz apple cider
2 oz Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
2 oz The Knot
1 oz cinnamon schnapps

Mix and serve over ice - makes one good-sized drink, as shown.

Cajun Remoulade (update)

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tsp Dijon mustard  
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chipotle powder (or more to taste if you like it spicy)
2 scallions, minced  

Whisk everything but the scallions together well. Stir in scallions, and serve.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wellfleet OysterFest

a real Wellfleet Oyster....oh yeah baby

4:30 AM on a Saturday, and there's really no good reason at all for me to be one : oysters.

We've been trying to go to the Wellfleet OysterFest ever since we heard about it, but somehow had never quite gotten it together...user calendar error, cousins getting married....insidious plots to keep us away. The word "OYSTERS" has been scrawled on October 15th in the 2011 calendar hanging in my kitchen since, I think, when the calendar was hung in January...and finally, finally, we've made it to October. And oysters !

shucking off

From the website : "The annual Wellfleet OysterFest is a two-day celebration of the town’s famous oysters and its deep-rooted shellfishing traditions. Wellfleet’s town center comes alive for this street party that brings together locals and visitors alike for a weekend full of food, art, music, fun and games.". And a street party it was...exactly as billed : a super fun event involving lots of lovely, lovely oysters.

Wellfleet is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Boston, and we didn't plan to stay over - hence the early start time. We were hoping to make a 9 AM lecture, but left a little late...and the parking is at the town docks, which is a little way from the town center - so by the time we parked and walked up to the town we didn't quite make the early lecture. Still, it was a lovely walk :

This actually turned out to be a wise use of our time, as we were able to check out all the booths without the insane crowds. And by "insane", I mean so many people so close to me that I felt like I needed a cigarette and a shower afterwards - and I don't even even smoke. But that was later, and we were the early birds who got the worms - or in our case, the Bloody Marys and Lobster Bruschetta at Winslow's Tavern :

even the heavens approve...

The sign said "World Famous Bloody Marys", and after trying one I can see why...deliciously thick and spicy, with a touch of lemon...nice kick...simply perfect. And the bruschetta was heavenly....lobster with just enough mayo to hold it together over deliciously grilled bread.

After such a satisfying breakfast, we were ready to check out more booths - and to start on some platters of seriously good oysters. After all, we needed to fortify ourselves for a cooking demonstration...because who could possibly resist meeting someone who wrote a book called "For Cod And Country" ?  Behold, Barton Seaver :

terrible picture of a really good looking guy
The demo - really, more of an informative talk - was absolutely fascinating, and well worth the trip on its own. Barton Seaver is a chef and restaurant owner who now works with National Geographic and is focused on promoting sustainability, particularly in regards to seafood. Before my skeptical readers start rolling their eyes, let me tell you : this guy makes a lot of sense, and his ideas are definitely worth looking at. His focus is on the fishermen and women as much as the fish itself, and his way of looking at everything just makes sense - don't stop eating a particular sort of fish, but figure out a responsible way to do it that encourages the preservation of the species. (Not to mention the guy sounds like he could write for this blog...any more talk of glistening, quivering, pulsating oysters and their salty, briny, luscious sweetness sliding across the tongue and we'd have to be talking cigarettes and showers again). And the cooking...he prepared some oyster shooters that we could only sniff and not taste (stupid Massachusetts blue laws) but which smelled amazing, and he also prepared samples of what he called a "Bordeaux Vineyard Lunch" that consisted of cold raw oysters with slices of hot sausage, topped with a radish-cilantro relish that was out of this world. And, of course, we bought the book :)

After the demo and one more round of oysters, we were ready to hit the road. Well, actually, we could have stayed all day...but I'm really not exaggerating the size of that crowd. I'm not shy or squeamish by any means, but being in a crowd like that really just doesn't interest me at all. You can't see or get to anything - and who wants that...heck, I can get that on the T ! So, sadly, we said goodbye to OysterFest for this year.

But that doesn't mean our day of Cape fun was quite done...

Cape Cod Highland Light, Truro

frolicking seals !

We decided to drive up to Provincetown, as my chief co-contributor had never been. First, though, a quick stop at the Cape Cod Highland Light. Beautiful spot, even with the punishing wind...and seals ! Happy seals swimming about at the foot of the cliffs, what a wonderful sight. A quick drive through P-town (we didn't stop, so no pictures there - though we did get sand and salt blasted, which was quite a trip). Definitely going to plan another trip there !

Driving back through Wellfleet, we were actually hungry again (platters of oysters are amazing, but not terribly filling) - but craving something like burgers and beer, of all things. We tried stopping at a place called Van Rensselaer's, but they weren't open for the evening quite they directed us to their sister restaurant two doors down, Catch of the Day. At first glance, we weren't overly impressed...the place looked like an overgrown pizza parlor, the restrooms were outside and through the back door, and we weren't even sure there was beer. But then we sat down and perused the beer list (Hallelujah !), and saw huge bowls of Wellfleet Fisherman's Stew go by...and we were sold :

hooray, beer !!

Crab cakes with cilantro-lime aioli...YES

Wellfleet Fisherman's Stew

First off, Whales Tale Pale Ale is absolutely delicious, and you should drink some at the first opportunity :) 

The crab cakes were fairly standard, though the fact that they were deep-fried was a nice touch - crab cake inside a crispy shell, great idea. The aioli, though, was fantastic - the real winner of the dish. Bright, light, and full of flavor...oh yeah, we are going to deconstruct that one for home brewing.

And then, the stew. Mussels, littlenecks, squid, shrimp, red potatoes, roasted corn, tomatoes and chorizo in a spicy saffron seafood broth. Sounds like a somewhat standard stew of the bouillabaisse variety...but words cannot express how amazing this stew actually was. The clams were so huge and meaty that you actually had to cut them to eat them politely. The squid was perfectly cooked (not that easy to find), and the roasted corn was a revelation - even my non-corn-loving co-conspirator absolutely loved it. 

Man, that was a long ride back to Boston...but what a perfect day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fondue with Truffles and Brie

It's been a busy food week here at CO HQ. Had a fantastic dinner at Fiorella's - their recent renovation has added just enough space so you can breathe (and a gorgeous bar besides), but not so much that you feel overwhelmed - it still has that neighborhood joint feel. They also have some new dishes (peppers stuffed with DePasquale sausage...omgwtf good) that definitely should be checked out. And yesterday, we went to the Wellfleet OysterFest, which was so amazing that it definitely deserves an entry of its own. But first...the fondue.

We had a run of rainy days last week, and by Friday I was craving something soothing and warming...and for some reason, that translated to the Brie and Black Truffle Fondue with Truffle Oil from Sprigs . I know I rave about this dish all the time, but it is seriously that good - luscious and moan-worthy, the very definition of Culinary Orgasm. Having just come off the Fiorella's dinner Thursday and needing to turn in early to get an early start at Oysterfest pretty much negated a Sprigs trip (though I do love it so), so it was time to make my first fondue. Sadly, I don't tend to keep black truffles around (I do have a budget, you know !), but I do know where to get a fantastic truffled cheese (Sottocenere al Tartufo at Russo's, though Trader Joes makes a great bargain alternative with their Italian Truffle Cheese). And I do have a weakness for good truffle oil...which luckily is cheaper than actual truffles.

So it turns out fondue is actually fairly easy to make - I thought, being French and all, that there would be all sorts of complicated steps, involving fetching water from a moonlit spring while singing Edith Piaf . Luckily, it's not quite so complex :)

The first step is to rub the inside of your saucepan with garlic. Seems a bit of overkill - why not just throw it in ? Now having done it,, though, I can see why classic fondues are done that way - actual bits of garlic would be way too strong. Add some sort of liquid to your lovely essence of garlic, gently heat, and add your cornstarch-dusted cheesy goodness cubes. Get it all melted, gooey and delicious, add more flavoring if desired, and serve with your favorite dippables - cubes of good bread, slices of sausages, bits of Granny Smith apples, lightly steamed asparagus and/or broccoli, tiny boiled potatoes...the sky's the limit. Voilà  - a perfect intimate dinner for two, or a fantastic appetizer to awaken the palate...definite Culinary Orgasm !

Fondue with Truffles and Brie

1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup white wine
1/2 lb Brie, outer rind removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb cheese with black truffles (Sottocenere al Tartufo , Trader Joe's Italian Truffle Cheese, or similar), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons truffle oil

Rub the inside of a heavy saucepan generously with the garlic clove, and discard. Add the wine to the pot and heat to a gentle simmer. Toss the cheese cubes with the cornstarch and add to the wine. Whisk mixture constantly until it is melted and smooth. Add nutmeg, remove from heat, and stir in the truffle oil. Transfer to fondue pot is using, and serve with your choice of dippables.

Suggested items for dipping :

Cubes of bread - French, sourdough, Pugliese...
Tiny whole boiled potatoes
Italian or garlic sausage, cooked and sliced
Slices of dry sausage (Abruzzese is wonderful !)
Granny Smith apple slices

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hubby's Hummus

Hummus is one of those things that people either really, really like...or really, really dislike. I am definitely, happily in the first group...I absolutely love the stuff !

Hummus - or, more correctly,  Hummus bi tahina (chickpeas with tahini) - for those who haven't made friends with it yet - is basically a dip or spread made with pureed cooked chickpeas (also known as garbanzos)  tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. We're talking an ancient food here - hummus in some form has been eaten in the Middle East for thousands of years. as the chickpea was one of the earliest cultivated vegetables  - 7,500 year old remains have been been found, which is mighty old indeed. (Hummus doesn't seem to hang in my house for 75 seconds though !). I'm not even sure what my first exposure to this delightful substance was...might have been the hippies renting upstairs from us when I was in second grade or so, or possibly from my mother's vegetarian friend who started my cookbook collection when I was 10. All I know is that it's damn good stuff - on pita triangles or veggies, spread on a sandwich, or just off the spoon. Well made hummus is truly a delight - and luckily, it's quite easy to make. At least, I think so now !!

The reason this post is titled "Hubby's" hummus is because hummus making is a skill that my husband brings to the table - I mean, I can make it and all, but he is really the master of this one. Way back in the old days when he was just a young not-quite-foodie, he used to work at a tiny restaurant in Downtown Boston called "Sarge's" (no longer there). Hummus was one of the items on the menu as a lunch plate (definitely not normal for the early 80's !), though the staff tended to refer to it as "camel puke"due to the consistency. He still raves about the fresh, fresh Syrian bread they used to get at the restaurant...he would go to pick it up when it was just coming out of the oven, all puffed up like pillows, quickly deflating to the familiar rounds. Good just plain, but even better with their hummus.  Being such a huge hummus fan myself, I basically nagged him into making it for us. Turns out it goes great with beer and football, making it the perfect Sunday afternoon lunch around these parts.

I am giving the basic recipe here, but by all means you should add whatever you like to yours...we very often add a roasted red pepper (jarred will work fine, but roasting your own is fun too), or top it with a good black or green tapenade (olive spread).

Enjoy !!


1 can chickpeas (large size - 29 oz) or two smaller cans (reserve liquid)
1/2 cup tahini (or more to taste)
juice of 1 large lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
1/4 good olive oil

Place chickpeas in food processor and process until well chopped. Add rest of the ingredients and process until well combined, adding some liquid from the chickpeas until desired consistency is reached (should be creamy, but yet still somewhat grainy). Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve with pita bread, veggies (carrots / cucumbers / celery all work well), crackers...or whatever you like !

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Braised Short Ribs with Gruyere-Leek Bread Pudding

Late summer / early fall can sometimes be a bit challenging for foodies. Some days it's still so hot that you can't stand the idea of running your oven all day...but other days, the breeze starts to cool or the sky clouds over and the yen to stew something takes over. Such was the weather this past weekend - some clouds and rain, but temperatures still fairly warm...a sort of middle ground, no man's land.

Your intrepid blogger and her co-conspirator woke up Sunday and just could not decide what to cook...ideas were flying fast and furious, and nothing seemed to stick. All we knew for sure was that a) the Pats were the late afternoon game, and b) the bread fairy had struck the night before, when I came home to a bag full of delicious bakery bread and rolls tied to my front door. (The bread fairy - a.k.a my neighbor with a friend that owns a bakery - has been hanging out quite a bit these past months...good thing we're not avoiding carbs, or anything :) ). .

So there I was in the shower, when suddenly it hit me and I started yelling..."short ribs ! I want short ribs ! And bread pudding...with Gruyere and leeks, like the one at Sprigs ! ". (Yes, things like that are yelled in my shower quite often...welcome to my world.). A quick trip to the store, and we were ready to start cooking.

veggies for short rib braise

bread ready for pudding

The short rib recipe we based ours on was one from Food Network , which we basically really liked - the major tweaks were to swap in some shallots for onions, and some port for some of the red wine. Shallots and port both add such a lovely richness to any dish, and they definitely both make sweet, sweet love to short ribs. The only other tweak we would make would be to cut down the amount of tomato paste - there's really no need for an entire cup and a half, one cup would do very nicely.

veggies and paste reducing

browned and ready !
ribs nestled in goodness
As for the Gruyere-Leek  Bread Pudding...I have been lusting after this ever since the first time I had it at Sprigs. I love, love, love leeks...serious love. Everything tastes better with leeks ! A little web surfing revealed that a lot of people were very fond of Thomas Keller's recipe - which did look promising, though I knew I definitely wanted Gruyere instead of Comté or Emmenthaler. (All of them are great cheeses, but Sprigs uses I wanted Gruyere). Looking at the recipe, though...somehow, 1 cup of cheese and 2 cups of leeks were just not going to be enough for 12 cups of bread - especially on the leeks - they reduce quite a bit when cooked, and I definitely wanted the leeks to be a major component of the dish.  So...I doubled the cheese and leeks. No guts no glory, right ? And it turns out I was right...this bread pudding was perfect, and definitely had the combination of flavors I was looking for - in the right proportions.

oooh yeah baby !

A little Rainbow Swiss Chard , and there it was....Sunday dinner, in time for the Pats game. (Well, there was plum cake too....but that will have to be another blog entry :) )


Braised Short Ribs

Adapted from Food Network

  • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 6 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 - 10 shallots, peeled and halved 
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups hearty red wine
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and port and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

Leek Bread Pudding
Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 2009)

Time: 2 1/2 hours (1 hour for preparation and 1 1/2 hours for baking)

4 cups leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed (about 2 large)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch-bread cubes
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Trim leeks, slice in half lengthwise, and rinse well. Place the leeks in a large bowl with water to cover to which you have added the cider vinegar. Soak for 15 minutes, then lift out of the water. Rinse again, and slice into 1 inch lengths.

Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.

Add leeks and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.

Sprinkle a little of the cheese in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with rest of cheese. Pour in milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in (some cubes will protrude, which is fine). Let rest 15 minutes.

Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot.