Our oyster bread pudding has been a surprise hit here at the saloon this month. We were initially looking for a temporary solution to use the extra garden kale (before the frost hit) and the surplus of yearling oysters coming across the shucking table - but with the addition of some locally grown & foraged mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and roasted garlic, we hit on a winner.
Hama Hama Oyster Bread Pudding
The bread pudding freezes well, lasts for about a week in the fridge, and can be eaten any time of day: with eggs for breakfast, with a salad for lunch, or with roasted chicken for dinner. We've even taken some camping with us, and despite getting a little crunched in the backpack, it was delicious at the campsite - ugly food is okay, it's the love inside that counts.
This recipe is very forgiving - don't take it too seriously. Be sure to read below for the ingredient notes on items marked with an *.
Final note: this recipe is a fabulous one to make a day or two ahead of time. It cooks in two steps: baked in a water bath for 1.5 hours, and then seared in slices to get crispy and hot.
1 pound of bread, cut into 1" cubes*
1/2 cup chopped winter herbs*
1/2 cup chopped parsley (Italian preferred)
2 cups cleaned & rough chopped, de-stemmed raw kale
1 cup sweet onion or shallot, small diced
2 pints poached yearling oysters*
1 T Worcestershire sauce (or 2 T homemade oyster sauce)*
1/2 cup butter
3/4 pound raw mushrooms (more is always ok too)*
4 oz roasted garlic*
3.5 cups heavy cream
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Pickled vegetables & salad, for serving.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter 4 4x6 bread pans (the recipe will fill 3 to 4 of these pans).
Poach the oysters by cooking them in a pot of water. Don't add salt, don't drain them. Cook until they're firm and their edges curl, then strain them out and set aside.
Saute the mushrooms & shallots in 1/2 cup butter until golden and fragrant. Salt lightly and pull pan off. Keep the butter in the pan, it's a key ingredient.
In a large bowl, toss the cubed bread with the chopped herbs, kale, mushrooms/shallots in butter, and the poached oysters. Turn gently to make sure the herbs and seasoned butter are evenly distributed.
In another bowl, mix the egg yolks, heavy cream, and oyster sauce or Worcestershire. Pour this mix over the bread mixture, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over everything, and gently fold with your hands to evenly distribute. (If have neither Worcestershire sauce or oyster sauce, add more salt and some black pepper, about a teaspoon of each).
Pack the mixture into the baking pans. You want the pans fully loaded but not smooshed.
Then, put these full pans into a roasting pan half full of water - making a little bath for the loaves. Bake at 325, covered loosely with foil, until the inside temperature reaches 175 degrees. In our non-convection oven, this takes 1.5 hours.
Remove the pans from the oven and the water bath, uncover them, and allow them to cool for an hour before you pop into the fridge, or the freezer.
To serve, slice off 1" thick slabs, and sear in a pan, flipping half way, until browned and hot - or dig in with a spoon and microwave until your face burns.
We like to serve with a little salad and some pickled vegetables - the acidity breaks up the umami & creamy texture.
Notes on Ingredients
For the bread: stale hot dog buns, white grocery store sandwich bread, homemade sourdough, or any other pale loaf (crusts are great) will work. Stay away from really dense or really dark breads, while they may be delicious, they won't respond as well to the heavy custard we're about to get down on.
Winter herbs: we like rosemary and thyme - but feel free to add sage, savory, or others - stay away from the cilantro though
Oysters: Any size shucked oysters would work... feel free to chop the larger sizes if you like. You do not need to cool the oysters off before you use them... in fact, it's important to prevent sogginess that the oysters are not cooled under water after you poach them... but if it works better for you you can poach a day or two a head of time and keep in the refer. Even poached and frozen then thawed works well!
Make oyster sauce. This is really next-level, but it's time consuming! Once the oysters have been strained out of the water, reduce the poaching nectar slowly over medium/low heat until you have a darkened liquid, transfer to a small saucepan and reduce further until it is syrupy, about 2 Tablespoons worth of liquid.
Mushrooms: chanterelles, shiitakes, hedgehogs, anything that's got a good chew/meaty texture will work - oyster mushrooms we've found to be too soft, and chicken of the woods/lobsters may be too hard unless processed ahead of time (but if you have the energy to confit them, roast them, or otherwise pre-process, they will be delicious additions)
How to roast garlic: take a half cup (or more) of garlic cloves, skin off, and submerge in a mild oil like safflower or cooking olive oil, cover with foil, and roast at 300 for 2-4 hours.