Brunching at Commander’s Palace – and Their Bread Pudding Soufflé
Last weekend I got a late Saturday night message from Facebook friend, and fellow food blogger, Gigi Gleason (she blogs at Epicurean Adventurer, and we first met at Camp Blogaway, then reconnected a year later at the Foodbuzz conference in San Francisco) saying that she was in New Orleans – she’s a hometown girl , too, for a couple of days.
“I have a brunch rez at Commander’s at 10 A.M. tomorrow morning. Would you like to join me,” she asked.
Duh- heck yeah!
There are many wonderful places, with outstanding food, to dine in New Orleans, but I always say dining at Commander’s is something every visitor to New Orleans should experience. Commander’s Palace is the iconic restaurant established by Ms. Ella Brennan (often called things like the Queen and/or Grand Dame of New Orleans cuisine and the Big Easy’s matriarch), and her late brother, Owen (and still run today by Ms. Brennan’s daughter Ti Adelaide Martin and her niece, Lally Brennan), which placed chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse firmly on the path to culinary stardom. And more importantly to my mind, the Brennan family understands something about hospitality that I wish the rest of the restaurant world in this country understood. The whole place feels like one big party is going on in the gracious old mansion turned restaurant, and from the moment you step foot inside the door of you are treated as a cherished guest.
They open early for both Saturday and Sunday brunch – both of which I appreciate, and of course, it’s a jazz brunch, so we were serenaded.
I started with an excellent Bellini, and Gigi with a Brandy Milk Punch (she later switched to Bellinis, too), as we perused the menu. I decided on the Lobster and Brie Frittatta (I was torn between that and the Shrimp and Grits), but as our young server pointed out, you can get Shrimp and Grits anywhere. I was sold, and the frittatta, topped with big chunks of lobster, cherry tomatoes, wild mushrooms and fingerling potatoes was quite an amazing dish, indeed, as you can see below.
The brunch includes 3 courses, so on top of this beautiful frittata, a decadent dessert made its way to us afterwards. I had a rich parfait studded with crunchy praline pecans, while Gigi opted for their famous Bread Pudding Soufllé, created right there in the kitchen of Commander’s Palace. Luckily for you, the recipe for the Bread Pudding Soufflé is printed in the book, Commander’s Kitchen: Take Home the True Taste of New Orleans with More Than 150 Recipes from Commander’s Palace Restaurant, but even more luckily, I’m going to post it for you here.
Thanks to the the effervescent Lally Brennan for taking the pic of Gigi and me. And please check out the interview I did with Ti Adelaide Martin a few years back.
Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding Soufflé
Yield: 6 servings
For the Bread Pudding:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 cups day old French bread (that’s the light airy kind)
- 1/3 cup raisins
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
- Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs until smooth, then work in the heavy cream. Add the vanilla, then the bread cubes. Allow the bread to soak up the custard mixture.
- Scatter the sugar in the greased pan, and top with the custard. (The recipe says this will prevent the raisins from burning.)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean. It should be moist, not runny or dry. Let the pudding cool to room temperature.
For the Whiskey Sauce:
- 1 1/2cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- Combine the water and cornstarch. Bring the cream to a boil, then add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling cream, in a steady stream, stirring constantly.
- Return to a boil, then reduce the heat, and stirring constantly, continue to cook the sauce mixture for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let it burn. Stir in the sugar and bourbon. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature.
For the Meringue and Assembly:
- 9 egg whites at room temperature ( make sure they have no traces of yolk in them)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 6-ounce ramekins.
- In the absolutely clean bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, as you continue to whip the egg whites until they are thick and shiny, and come to a point when you lift the beater.
- In a large bowl, break half the bread pudding into pieces using your hands or a spoon. Very gently, so as not to lose the air, fold in a quarter of the meringue. Place a portion of this mixture in each of the ramekins.
- Repeat with the process with the remaining bread pudding, folding in the rest of the meringue, then top off the soufflés with this lighter mixture, to about 1 1/2 inch over the top of the ramekin, shaping into a dome.
- Place into the oven immediately, and bake for @ 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Using a spoon, poke a hole in the top of each soufflé as you serve it, and spoon the room temperature Whiskey Sauce into the soufflé. Our server did this so quickly, I wasn’t even able to get a picture of her doing it. Oh well…