My family took me out for dinner this year for my birthday. It was kind of a deal because a) everyone was home, b) it was a birthday and c) we were going to Fogo de Chao, a schwank Brazilian steakhouse buffet.
Now, my family doesn’t go out to eat all that often, especially to super nice places.
If we do, it’s mostly hole-in-the-wall foreign food adventures or this scenario: “Hey, wanna meet me at DQ? My body will die if I do not get an Oreo Brownie Earthquake in ten minutes.”
Or even this one: “It was Friday night, and I was alone and feeling sorry for myself, so I ordered Hot Wok. I saved you a single bite of the curried beef.”
Eating out is a rare and special occasion that is only indulged every so often, and never at impeccably-serviced, four-star, romantically-lit, all-out establishments. Hence, it was kind of a deal, and mid-way through the meal, I was kind of nervous.
Why were you so nervous, Lauren? You don’t normally get freaked out by food. What could possibly be so scary about eating a celebration meal with your family?
I will tell you the answer, but first, let me just tell you how Fogo de Chao works so that you can better understand me.
The meal begins with these cheesy puffs of dough, kind of like a Brazilian popover. These are replaced frequently throughout the meal, an endless supply of fresh-baked biscuit-y goodness.
The buns are followed by an introduction to the salad bar, which was pretty much a massive charcuterie selection, followed by pasta salads, bright, roasted vegetables and of course, 15 different types lettuce, dressings and more bread. The team-style (read: omniscient) wait staff advised us to “go light” on the salad bar. This was nearly impossible to me, as it was basically everything that is my favorite.
Following the salad bar, we received several side dishes to be eaten along with the main course. There were caramelized plantains, fried polenta and garlic mashed potatoes. Along with this, a little circular card was delivered, one side red, one side green.
After you plow through your “salad,” the real decadence begins. As soon as you flip your card from stop to go, the table is swarmed with smiling gauchos hawking 17 (repeat, 17) different types of prepared meats. I was so overwhelmed and distracted by the flurry of activity the first time this occurred that my plate was next to bursting with bacon-wrapped filet mignon, chicken legs and beef ancho before I hastily flipped my card.
And as soon as I did, they were gone. Poof! And we were left to muse through a plate of medium-rare protein and rarer conversation. Same song, second verse. Same song third verse.
So I was not nervous about being in a schmancy restaurant (the waiter told us the gauchos kept asking when they could go back to the “princess table”) or even about eating too much (the night was clearly a write-off). I was actually nervous that my dress was going to bust. It was all fine and well while I was seated; I don’t think I realized how full I was. But upon standing, I teetered about nervously in my 4-inch stilettos, trying not to move my arms, lest the seams on my vintage cocktail dress give way to a dangerously full midsection. A girl’s gotta watch those vintage seams. They’re del-ic-ate.
Somehow we all made it to the car, and groaned/giggled the entire way home to try and express our mixed rapture and internal discomfort. Given the final bill, it is likely my family will never go out to eat again in this century, but oh heavens, it was fun.
The point of this whole story is that the next day, I came home and made this bread pudding, which is an extremely indulgent breakfast for dinner. Crusty artisan bread in a pool of custard, dotted with blueberries and laced with a rich, bourbon cream sauce…could dinner really get any better? And I barely even cared because I was wearing sweats and an old t shirt. Laaaaaaze.
Feel free to make this ahead of time if you wish. Assemble the skillet, let rest in the fridge overnight, then bake in the morning for a wonderfully boozy brunch addition.
P.s. This is an appropriate recipe for my 200th pipe dream! That’s pretty crazy to me. Think of all the weird dreams I haven’t shared with you! Ha. Girl’s got a lot of dreams.
Eat well, my dears,
Bread pudding elsewhere:
Blueberry Bourbon Bread Pudding
8 ounces crusty French bread, sliced in 1/2″ slices
heaping 1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter one side of each bread slice. Place the butter side down in a 9″ cast iron skillet. Whisk together the sugar, eggs, cream, milk, whiskey and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the blueberries and nutmeg over the top of the bread slices, then and pour the custard mixture over the bread.
Press the bread into the custard mixture so that it soaks up as much of the custard as possible. Cover with foil, and let rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the pudding is golden brown on top and the bread has absorbed the liquid. If you find the pudding starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with a generous swath of bourbon sauce (below).
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
scant 1/4 cup sugar
scant 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup bourbon, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
Whisk the cream, milk and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the whiskey in a small bowl, and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add this to the milk mixture in the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking continually until the sauce begins to thicken, about five minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup whiskey, the salt and the butter. Serve hot over the pudding.