(Family Features) This year, find creative ways to elevate your holiday hosting with a time-smart approach that’s no less gourmet. Look for versatile recipes that can be made ahead, reheated in minutes and served straight from the oven to make holiday entertaining stress-free.
Creative combinations of fresh, seasonal ingredients transform typical casserole dishes from mundane to gourmet fare fit for any holiday occasion. But delicious time-smart cooking actually starts with the right cookware, such as the Anolon Advanced Umber casserole pan, which seamlessly moves from stove top to oven to table with a unique umber finish that brings warmth to your holiday spread. Anolon’s high-performance, exceptionally crafted cookware, bakeware, cutlery and gadgets are offered in a wide selection to satisfy each home cook’s unique style.
Another time-smart way to elevate your holiday entertaining is offering a selection of high quality wines to accompany your meal. Look for wines that consistently exhibit intense layers of flavor with complexity and balance, such as Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve collection. For example, Kendall-Jackson’s 2013 Pinot Noir uses grapes grown in California’s cool coastal vineyards to achieve flavors of ripe strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and dark cherry. Five months of aging in French oak barrels layers on aromatic hints of toast, vanilla and cedar.
Start your holiday menu with a versatile and savory bread pudding, created by Irvin Lin, author of the blog, Eat the Love. This winter dish is ideal for a crowd and offers the flexibility of serving smaller portions as a side item or larger portions for a main course.
“This bread pudding is perfect for a holiday brunch, easy lunch or casual holiday dinner,” Lin said. “It can be made ahead of time for convenience and served at room temperature or warmed up.”
Eat the Love blog author Irvin Lin offers these variations and tips for a winning dish your guests will love:
- Make the bread pudding vegetarian by omitting the bacon, using 1 tablespoon of olive oil to saute the vegetables and adding 1/2 cup of smoked Gouda cheese to the filling.
- If you can't find Gruyere cheese, feel free to substitute Jarlsberg or Swiss.
- To reheat the pudding if you prepare ahead of time, bake for 15 minutes in the oven at 350°F.
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Savory Mushroom, Bacon and Gruyere Bread Pudding
- 1/2 pound bacon
- 1/2 pound (about 1/2 loaf) crusty sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
- 1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
- Place bacon in freezer to chill. This will help make it easier to chop. Heat oven to 375°F.
- Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and place in large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over bread and sprinkle with thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and garlic powder. Toss with spatula to coat evenly, then spread bread evenly in one layer onto rimmed baking sheet. No need to clean bowl yet. Bake bread for 20 minutes or until bread starts to turn golden. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 350°F.
- Remove bacon from freezer and finely chop it. In 3 1/2-quart oven-proof stovetop casserole pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Use slotted spoon to move bacon pieces to bowl lined with paper towel. Pour bacon grease out, but don’t wipe out pan.
- Add garlic to pan and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds or until it starts to smell fragrant. Add onions, celery and red pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are soft, about 5 more minutes. Season with remaining salt and pepper.
- Pour toasted bread into original large bowl and add vegetables and cooked bacon. Add parsley leaves and dried oregano, and mix together with large spatula. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Pour over bread and vegetables, add 1/2 the shredded Gruyere cheese and mix with spatula. Pour entire contents back into casserole pan.
- Sprinkle top of pudding with remaining cheese. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until top of bread pudding has turned golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve warm.