Bread Pudding - Miss Valerie's way!
In 1984, I met Miss Valerie. I arrived in New Orleans to go to Tulane, and had to make a stop on the way home from the airport at the World's Fair- my sister worked in the Italian Village. She sent me to the bank, with Miss Val. I was in a "button down the back dress" and heels. AND I HAD BIG HAIR. (it was the 80's!!)
Miss Val had a sack of rolled coin slung over her back. She stated "If any of these *expletive, expletive, expletive* try to *expletive* with us, I'll knock them in their *expletive" heads. I was terrified. From that point on, we became FAST and FOREVER friends.
Miss Valerie also knows, or is related to, everyone in New Orleans and the surrounding area. We never paid to ride the street car, we always go the freshest shrimp (off of the back of a truck) and we always had a seat at the Jazz Clubs. When I had David, we went to visit Miss Val. She was proudly carrying him around the market. A woman that Val knew, of course, said "where did you get that little white baby"? She pointed to me and said "it's my sister's son.....we have the same daddy, different mammas"....straight faced.....as we carried on with our business at the Winn Dixie.
Me and Miss Valerie, 1984.
Miss Valerie is the BEST COOK I KNOW. However, she never uses any recipes. Her measurements are something like "you know, enough so it tastes good"....."enough so it's wet, but not too wet"......"cook it until it's done, but not too done". She uses what she has in her pantry, she can make something out of nothing, and she ALWAYS has enough to share.
I have been fortunate enough to WITNESS some of the recipes being made, other's I have to "wing it" by what she tells me over the phone. Bread Pudding was one of my "over the phone" experiences. AND IT'S "SOOO GUUUUUUUUUD"(said in a New Orleans twang, Miss Valerie style).
**Remember, bread pudding was a poor man's pudding....so the leftover bread wouldn't go to waste.
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
Stale bread (or fresh bread. left out, until it's stale), usually 1 1/2 french loaves (or whatever you have, I used hot dog rolls for my last batch - about 18 of them) - cut into 1" pieces.Evaporated Milk, (or whatever milk you have in the fridge) - usually 3 cans evap, plus a little milk
2 cups sugar
Cinnamon - about 2-3 tsp
Ground Clove - about 1-2 tsp
Nutmeg - about 1-2 tsp
Allspice - about 1-2 tsp
(I probably use more of the above spices then I wrote.......and I lean down and smell the mixture after it's all together to see if I can SMELL the spices. If I can't, I add more. Once, I didn't have any ALLSPICE, so I used "chai tea" spice that I had - USE WHAT YOU'VE GOT BABY)
Pinch of salt
Vanilla - a splash
1 can of fruit cocktail
Bananas - 2 if you have them, none if you don't have them
1 stick of melted butter
Mix everything together in a HUGE BOWL. I like to beat the eggs separately, add the milk to them and then add that on top of the bread/spice mixture. I usually start with 3 cans of evap milk, and then "add enough regular milk" until it's "wet but not TOO wet" (a Miss Valerie measurement). A good test is when you press down on the bread mixture, you can SEE liquid, but you don't want the bread to be floating in it. Cover it with plastic wrap, put it in the fridge and let it sit over night. Pour it into the pan (I use the throw away 1/2 chafing dish aluminum pans), and bake it at 350 for ABOUT 45 min....or so. (Until it's done, but not too done). It should be "firm" in the middle, and dark golden all over. (I usually put a baking sheet under it to catch any overflow...it will puff WAY UP, then sink down again when you take it out).
**I've used chocolate chips in it, pecans, but never raisins....because I don't LIKE raisins. I've even made "savory" bread pudding with caramelized onions and mushrooms. BE CREATIVE!
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whiskey - don't worry about using the good stuff, it's ALL GUUUUUUUUUD
Splash of cream or milk
Cook until it's all combined and the sugar is "melted" in. (you'll have to either keep it warm or reheat it) IT'S NOT OK TO DRINK THE WHISKEY SAUCE.
Sometimes my bread pudding comes out more dense and wet. Sometimes it comes out more dry and fluffy. It's always guuuuuuuuud....cause it's made with LOVE....and whiskey sauce.