Monday, January 24, 2011

Cheesy Mushroom & Spinach Bread Pudding & A Panera Review

I've spent a lot of time in my car in the last few years.  There were the summer trips between Los Angeles and the Midwest. Then I drove from the Midwest to DC and then from DC back to Los Angeles. There were a few Los Angeles to San Francisco trips in there, too. Why am I telling you this? Because I'm going to talk road food that really isn't fast food. And because I have an announcement that explains what all that driving was about these past two weeks.

First, the announcement. Those who follow me on Twitter must be wondering what chaos is going on in my life. I've been driving through Gilroy, apartment hunting, and whining a lot. I got a job. I'm going to be a professional blogger. Seriously, people. Except that I won't be writing about food--I'll be writing about the law and being paid to do so. This necessitated a move to Silicon Valley, and thus I now reside in Santa Clara. Those of you in San Francisco and the East and South Bays are now on my list. We are going to hang out, so let's start making plans. And I apologize to those of you who were regaled with my roommate hunting extravaganza. People here are weird--no cooking, light cooking, no cooking oil, and microwave or boiling water only. Weird. And The Baking Barrister will not suffer now that I'm making money. I still have to eat, right?

Now, back to the food. The worst part of my drives was always food time. Sure, I could have looked up a destination in each city I stopped in, but I never knew exactly where I was going to stop. Plus I was tired and grumpy, which is never good when combined with hungry. Your typical fast food joint doesn't do it for me--I always end up regretting it an hour later, making my drives more complicated. Enter Panera (also known as St. Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café). I spent an inordinate amount of time in the various locations near my law school. Free wireless internet, free refills, delicious bread, and quick food I didn't feel horrible about putting in my body. It's no wonder it has become my road food of choice, prompting me to pull off the highway when the "Food" sign alerts me to its presence.

There were no window seats left.

I don't normally do restaurant reviews on my blog, but when contacted by Panera, I couldn't say no.* Today I took a break from my errand extravaganza and stopped in for lunch. I'm a You Pick Two girl--usually opting for soup and salad. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a new Low Fat All Natural Chicken Noodle soup, which is the third low fat soup on their menu. I was even more surprised when I dug in and found large chunks of chicken breast, a glut of noodles, and a hefty helping of carrot. In addition to the soup, I had a Caesar Salad that was laced with freshly grated parmesan and asiago croutons. And I got the side of bread; it's bread, and I can't help myself around bread. The point is, my salad and soup was a total of 300 calories, with a little added for the bread. If you wanted to opt for the Classic Cafe Salad, that would have been 180 calories. And if you're going for really healthy, you can opt for an apple instead of the bread. But that's a choice I'm not yet willing to make.

Besides being such a huge part of my law school memories, I'm kind of obsessed with Panera's Asiago and Three Cheese Demis. In celebration of finding a room that permits me to utilize the kitchen without restriction, I decided to break in the kitchen tonight. With some of my favorite bread, of course. I picked up two loaves of the Three Cheese Demi after lunch and started dreaming of savory bread pudding. I can't even begin to explain how happy I am that I used this bread. The deep flavors of parmesan, asiago and romano permeated the entire dish and accompanied the spinach and mushrooms (and white wine!) perfectly. Also, a shout out to Speakeasy Kitchen for the sage suggestion, the addition of which, I think, completed the dish.

Now go make this.

*Panera provided me with a gift card and a little compensation to write about my experience. I agreed because of my long-standing love affair with the chain and its bread. You should already know I don't mince words when it comes to bread.

Cheesy Mushroom & 
Spinach Bread Pudding

3 cups Three Cheese Demi
1 1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
few turns of the pepper mill
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup shiitakes, chopped
1/2 cup cremini, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups spinach
1/2 cup shredded asiago

Preheat oven to 375F.

1. Slice bread into one inch chunks and place in a square baking dish.

2. Mix together milk, eggs, salt, pepper and sage. Pour the mixture over the bread, utilizing a plate to keep bread submerged.

3. Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add garlic, shallot and mushrooms. When browned, add wine. Allow to cook until all liquid has evaporated. Add mixture to bread.

4. Saute spinach until most of the moisture is removed. Add, along with the cheese, to the bread bowl.

5. Evenly divide mixture between four greased ramekins. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until brown and the custard has set.


Charlie @ SweetSaltySpicy said...

I only made bread pudding once and it was a sweet one. This one looks delicious! :)

vtkitchen said...

oh, savoury bread pudding is a good idea. i once saw gorgonzola bread budding on a steak menu. i flipped. i wanted to try it so badly. i love your idea here with the mushrooms. it looks fab.

Prerna@IndianSimmer said...

Yay, so u finally have a home! Congratulations :-)
Don't worry about the WEIRD people around u, I'm coming soon thr n then we can hang out!

Robyn said...

Congrats on the job. I must be the only person in the world that can't stand Panera. Sorry folks, it's just bad.

Sommer J said...

Congrats on the job0!

I've heard lots of raves about Panera bread from friends back home, excellent review. And of course, I love bread pudding savory or sweet.

the actor's diet said...

i've never been to a panera before but have always wondered about it!

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

Congrats on the job! I would love to have Panera open here as I have heard such great things about them. I love bread pudding so I can't wait to try a savory version.

Tes said...

This pudding has successfully became my favourite bread pudding now. It just sounds so healthy and delicious :)

Joy said...

Congratulations, lady! This is awesome!

This savoury bread pudding looks incredible. I highly doubt I'll be finding a Panera anytime soon but this will just be an extra push for me to bake my own bread.

Megan said...

Congrats on the job! Woohoo!
Your bread pudding looks perfect for winter. It reminds me of a fantastic bread pudding I had at Bar Tartine.

(starting to feel like the only one who didn't accept that Panera sponsorship, but I just couldn't bring it in gear with my blog)

ravienomnoms said...

That pudding looks outstanding! Love all the ingredients!

apiciusapprentice said...

Congratulations!! This is so wonderful! Are you absolutely stoked? Good luck with the move/settling in :)

Peggy said...

Savory bread pudding? I'm there! This sounds great and I'm with you... I adore Panera!

Victoria said...

Congrats on the job and good luck with the apartment hunt (if you haven't found one yet). I love Panera too, it's one of the few reliable chain restaurants. Also your bread pudding looks awesome! Did you know I started hosting a monthly bread pudding club on my blog? I think this is the year of the bread pudding :) Yum!!

A Thought For Food said...

A savory bread pudding sounds so comforting right now! Great recipe!

danasfoodforthought said...

Congrats on your new job and new apartment! This dish sounds like a delicious way to break in your new environment.... yum!

Feast on the Cheap said...

Mmm...perfect for this frigid weather

Isabelle said...

CONGRATS! I knew you'd be a shoo-in for the legal blogger position. I am so excited for you, because you totally deserve this and will be awesome at the job.
And once I'm done being excited, I think I'm going to go wallow in envy, because I've yet to find a position that would pay me to blog about something I actually care (or know something) about. And also because you have Panera and I don't, and everyone says Panera is awesome.

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

Welcome to the Bay Area and congratulations on the new gig! Oh, and not being homeless, of course :)

The Food Apprecianado said...

Hey neighbor! I'm with you, when there's bread I just go weak in the knees. Though I must confess that I have our of necessity substituted an apple now and then. But it's never the same. It's like a date with the guy I'm not crushing on.

Lana said...

I am glad that you finally found a place to call home! And, congratulations on the new job!
I am with you on Panera - the only fast food I like. Husband used to bring home those little quiches for breakfast - pretty tasty.
The pudding looks great - a veggie and a carb dish for dinner, all in one.

Courtney said...

Woo, Silicon Valley! Glad to have you! :)

Kim said...

Congratulations on the new job! I like Panera eough... especially since it's near the office and I like my morning bagels :)


P.S. So much for that "next meeting," huh? :P

angi said...

Yesss... Welcome to the Yay Area! I want to smack some sense into those people looking for roommates who don't use the kitchen/only boil water. Seriously?!

sara @ CaffeIna said...

I'm so excited about your new job, your new home and you moving closer to us :) Let's talk via email these days so we can really set up a meeting. February for sure at this point but let's it happen soon! I'm so excited! I'm excited about your "road food" too 'cause it's usually my problem when i take road trip too! Congrats BB! And welcome to the Bay Area

kattyskitchen said...

So bizarre...I made strata this week, too! And am now catching up on Foodbuzz and found yours! Wine, too, eh? Mmmmm! Congrats on your new job, new place, new life!

Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having said...

Congrats on the new job!
I don't think there are any Panera's out here, if I'm ever in California again (fingers crossed soon) I'll check it out. It sounds like a great quick travel lunch.

Monet said...

Warmest congratulations on your new job! I'm so happy to hear this, and how cool that you get to blog for a paycheck! I worked at Panera during my freshman year of college...and I still love their food. Your bread pudding looks so delicious. Thank you so much for sharing with me tonight...and thanks for all the sweetness you leave on my means so much to me!

Jun Belen said...

Congratulations, again, on your new job and best of luck! Looking forward to seeing you in get-togethers in the Bay, even though I am always the last one to know about such events. Your bread pudding looks delish! You had me at asiago!

Stephanie @ Per l'Amore del Cibo said...

Congrats on the job, S!!! That's great news! And how can you not be thrilled that you get paid for blogging?! I also love Panera, but we don't have one here in New Mexico. :(

Sarah @ OC2Seattle said...

Congratulations on the new job! Law blogger? Sounds like the perfect legal job :)

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

Congratulations on the move and the new job! You know I've never been to Panera before, I didn't realize I'd been missing out. I love bread pudding, either savory or sweet, there's something so comforting about it.

Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food said...

This is my first visit here, but I can already see that need to delve into your recipe archives and perhaps make a visit to Panera too, a place I've never been. This savory pudding looks so very appealing. Truly inspired!

Trish said...

I too love Panera's three cheese demi. Love this bread pudding. Such a delicious and unique idea. Congrats on the new job and re-location. We'll be neighbors. I'm in Los Gatos now but moving to Cupertino in 2 weeks {gasp}. I understand how moving can be stressful. Look forward to seeing you at local get-togethers.

Post a Comment

NOTE: I understand that Blogger is currently having issues with its commenting system. If the comment box or Captcha do not show up, or you experience other problems, please e-mail me with your browser version, whether your Java is up-to-date, and whether you are on a Mac or PC. Please feel free to send your comment my way as well--I appreciate them all and I'm sorry Blogger hates us right now.

Thank you for indulging my narcissistic tendencies and leaving a comment. My ego sincerely appreciates it. As a quick note before you leave me accolades and ask for my hand in marriage, if you need a question answered promptly, you're better off sending an e-mail or a tweet. My computer is all fancy-like and beeps at me when you do.