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Buttery Crab Bread Pudding from The River Cottage Fish Book

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A far nicer photograph from Food and Wine
@Kate Mathis
        Because we’re barely off the plane from Europe, I have gone archival today to bring a wonderful recipe that I published way back in 2012.  It was such a hit with everyone who tried it that I thought I’d introduce to the whole new audience who weren’t following Chewing the Fat way back when.  And for those of you who were, it’s still a great idea for dinner or lunch.
When I came across this recipe in Food and Wine, I tried to resist it.  With its glorious crabmeat peeking out from layers and layers of French bread and creamy egg-y custard, I though it would be far too rich, far too full of carbohydrates and just far too much all the way around.  But then when I pointed it out to Andrew, he too had glommed onto the allure of the dish.  So I made it.  And I am so glad I did!  It is not heavy at all. Its richness comes from the crab and not the custard.  Lemon juice lightens the whole dish and I confess to cutting back on the butter and using a delicious whole wheat baguette to cushion the carb count.  It was simply delicious served with a green  salad.  There were leftovers, which I brought to a friend and disappointed Andrew who was looking forward to another delicious go at it.  And where did this delicious concoction come from?

         You have to love someone whose name is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the co-author, with the aptly named Nick Fisher, of the cookbook Buttery Crab Bread Pudding came from, “River Cottage Fish Book” (Bloomsbury 2007).  The name conjurs up a bucolic image of the English countryside in all its Technicolor glory.  Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall is indeed English and the English country background is indeed a reality. The chef has a fascinating background.  He went to both Eton and Oxford before settling into a culinary career as a celebrity chef, journalist, food writer and television personality.  And he has a fascinating nickname: Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall.  This was given to him for his completely eccentric cooking style showcased in a series called “Cook on the Wild Side.”  I won’t go into some of the unbelievable things the chef cooked on the series but think of Andrew Zimmern, the American star of “Bizaare Foods”, and you’ll get the picture.
         I think we can all breathe sigh of relief that in 1997, Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall decided to repair to his “River Cottage” where he focused his attention on becoming a champion of the slow food movement.  The former gameskeeper’s lodge in Dorset became the setting for 3 television series: “Escape to River Cottage”, “Return to River Cottage” and “River Cottage forever”. But it hardly stopped there.  Then came “The River Cottage Treatment”, “River Cottage Gone Fishing”, “The View from River Cottage”, “River Cottage Spring”, “River Cottage Autumn” and “River Cottage Winter’s on the way”.  If you are not already exhausted from this output, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall then produced “River Cottage Everyday” and in August 2011, “River Cottage, Veg every day” came on the air. Whew.
         The only real regret I have is that I made this in the city where our baking dish selection is limited. So my version did not have the visual panache of the original photograph by Kate Mathis, pictured at the top of this post.  Instead, mine was not packed in.  It was considerably smaller than the Bon Appetit version, but my, was it good.  I cut the recipe back but the one I am publishing is for the full dish which is said to serve 8 people.  That would give everyone a serving that would likely make a reasonable appetizer or a light supper or lunch.  It’s so satisfying that you don’t need a lot.  And you can put it together in under a half hour before baking it for another half hour.  Here is the recipe:

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