Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home From the Holidaze

I don't know about you, but I'm glad to be back to my normal routine.  Well, that would be if I knew what "normal" was.  We came back from a week on vacation with the "fam" (all 28 of them) to find out that burglars are running rampant in our neighborhood.  Apparently there is one particular guy who breaks into homes and besides stealing jewelry, electronics, etc. GUESS WHAT HE DOES?  He raids the fridge, makes a meal for himself, helps himself to a bottle of wine and then rips off bottles of champagne.  Are you kidding me?

I sure hope he doesn't find out about me and the goodies in my freezer.  Or the wine cellar in the basement.  Let's just pray the incessant barking of my dogs (which used to make me crazy, but not so much now) will lead him to believe that my house is SO not worth breaking into.

But on to better subjects.  Years ago I took my kids to New York City and we lived there (courtesy of my sister Barbara and her amazing brownstone in the West Village) for two straight summers.  We loved Bleecker Street and became regulars at most of the restaurants and shops there.  Ah, Murray's Cheese, Zito's (tragically gone now) and Rocco's. 

Which brings me to the point (sort of) here.  That would be Rocco's and their amazing panettone.  If you've never had it, it's a cylindrical Italian sweet bread that is studded with candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins.  It's to die for.  It has nothing to do with a Claxton fruitcake.  It's delicious.  I may be Jewish, but I want it on the table for my Christmas breakfast!  It's that good. 

But, wait ... THEY DON'T SHIP!

Enter my sister Barbara.  Rocco's might not ship, but she does.  So we came home from the dysfunctional family trip to find it waiting on our doorstep.  So happy the burglar didn't find it first!

What to do?  I'm the food police right now, so leaving it around for Henry or me to take a slice for breakfast isn't an option.  The only reasonable solution is to just blow it out and send it into caloric overload.  Are you with me here?  I'm talking panettone bread pudding.

We had friends for dinner over here last night, so I knew I could experiment.  I got lucky.  It was really, really good.  Oh screw that.  It was fabulous, even if I do say so myself.  And, it was enhanced by the blood orange caramel sauce that I made on the fly.  I'd order this again!



PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING

2 loaves (cylinders) store-bought Panettone (from Rocco's if you are lucky)
8 extra-large eggs
4 cups half-and-half
4 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Mandarin Napolean brandy, or any other brandy or alcohol of choice (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup turbinado (raw) sugar


Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Cut panettone into 1 1/2-inch cubes.  Spread out on two half sheet pans and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn cubes with a large spatula and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

In a very large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and milk.  Add sugar and whisk to blend, then whisk in vanilla, nutmeg, salt and brandy (if using).  Add cooled bread cubes and soak for 30 minutes, turning occasionally so that bread soaks up as much of the mixture as possible.

Butter a large baking dish (15 x 11 x 3.5).  Pour bread mixture in then drizzle the heavy cream over the top.  Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.  Place the baking dish into a larger pan filled with hot water (bain-marie) and place in the preheated oven on the middle rack.

Bake for 1 hour at 350-degrees until edges are firm but middle is still very wobbly.  Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning and bake for another 20 minutes or until middle is just set.  It should still shake ever-so-slightly.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes then spoon into serving dishes.  Top liberally with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce (recipe follows) and softly whipped unsweetened cream.

Serves 12-15


BLOOD ORANGE CARAMEL SAUCE

6 blood oranges
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Zest oranges, then juice them (you should end up with approximately 1 1/2 cups juice).  Place zest and juice in a shallow saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 10 minutes until mixture reduces to 3/4 cup.  Remove from heat, let cool then strain.  Stir in heavy cream and set aside. 
Melt butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until sugar caramelizes and mixture is smooth.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and slowly pour in the orange/cream mixture.  Pour slowly and stand back as it will boil and spatter.  When it calms down, turn heat up to medium-high and cook and stir until mixture smooths out.  Add a pinch of salt.

Yield:  approximately 1 1/2 cups

Of course you can make this with regular oranges, but I love the intensity and the drama of blood oranges!  It's a caramel sauce indeed worthy of adorning Rocco's panettone.  Thanks, Sis!






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