Whole-animal cooking is business as usual for Jason Barwikowski. So when he received whole chickens (including the feet, liver and heart) from his local purveyor, he decided to sauté the livers and fashion a savory bread pudding for The Woodsman Tavern, his new Portland, Oregon, restaurant. The dish quickly became a menu favorite. Studded as it is with mushrooms, onions, sage, thyme and bay leaves, this is one side dish we're eager to fill up on at home.
Savory Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from Jason Barwikowski, The Woodsman Tavern, Portland, Oregon
Yield: One 9 -inch-by-15 -inch baking dish of bread pudding
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced into ¼-inch cubes
2 celery stalks, diced into ¼-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cremini or button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
2 fresh or dried bay leaves, finely chopped
1 cup chicken livers, cleaned
2 cups heavy cream
1 large rustic loaf of bread, diced into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and grease a 9-inch-by-15-inch baking dish. In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and bay leaves and set aside.
2. In another medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted and foamy. Add the chicken livers; sear for 2 minutes, then turn and sear on the other side for 2 minutes. Remove the livers from the pan and set aside on a plate to cool slightly. Once the livers are cool, chop finely.
3. Add the cream to the cooked mushrooms in the pan; return the pan to the stovetop and, over medium heat, heat until warm, about 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add a third of the cream mixture to the eggs while whisking, then add the egg mixture back into the mushroom-herb mixture. Add the bread and stir to coat. Fold in the chicken livers and pour the mixture into the greased baking pan. Place the pan into a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the pan in the oven and bake 45 minutes. Carefully uncover the dish and continue cooking until the bread pudding is set, 45 to 60 minutes more. Serve warm.