One of Santa Fe’s most storied chefs punctuates a refined but unfussy menu with decadent comfort.
Santa Fe is beloved for its history, its architecture, for its art, for many enchanting things, including its chefs and restaurants. Among the notable are Charles Dale, executive chef-owner of Bouche Bistro. Born in France to American parents, Dale’s resume includes time working under culinary legend Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque in New York. But as soon as he could, Dale made his way West where in 1988 he opened his own restaurant, Renaissance, in Aspen, Colorado.
The restaurant was widely acknowledged to be Aspen’s most luxurious and refined restaurant, garnering every major culinary and wine award in America for itself and Dale, including Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef in America for Charles in 1995; the James Beard Foundation nomination for Best Chef, Southwest, in 1998 and 1999; Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence; and a host of national and international press.
Since then Dale has gone on to open more restaurants, including the developing chef at the new Encantado Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Featuring his trademark “Modern Rustic” cuisine, the signature restaurant, Terra, was named to the “20 Best New Restaurants of 2008” by esteemed food writer John Mariani. The hotel was awarded the prestigious AAA 5-Diamond Award from 2010 through 2012, the first and only hotel-resort in New Mexico to be so recognized. His latest restaurant, Bouche Bistro looks and feels like a neighborhood Parisian locals’ hangout, complete with cozy banquettes, wood-burning fireplace, open kitchen and, weather permitting, one of Santa Fe’s nicest patios. But diners don’t get highfalutin, fancy-schmancy food at Bouche Bistro. No. They relish unfussy fare that blends continental cuisine with touches of the City Different, including this dessert.
Chocolate-Cherry Bread Pudding
½ cup sun-dried cherries
½ cup Kirsch brandy (optional)
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 pound white country bread torn into chunks or a sliced baguette
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into chunks
5 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 eggs, plus 2 yolks
Soak the cherries in the Kirsch for 1 hour. Strain. Scatter the cherries in the bottom of a 2-quart soufflé mold or in eight 8-ounce ramekins. Lightly butter the bread and arrange over the cherries. Scatter bittersweet chocolate chunks over bread.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Warm milk in a saucepot, and then whisk in sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk whole eggs and yolks together, and then pour the warm milk over the eggs and whisk to fully incorporate. Pour the entire mixture over the chocolate, bread, and cherries in the mold(s). Place the mold(s) in a water bath and into the oven. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until set. You will know the pudding is set when it barely moves when shaken. Remove from the oven and the water bath and cool to room temperature. This pudding is best served slightly warm. To reheat, put it into a 300-degree oven for 15 minutes prior to serving.
For more information on Bouche Bistro or to make reservations, visit their website.