Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It Ain't So Bad...

Vegetarians have it hard during the holidays. Over the course of three months, my family will have consumed four turkey dinners. In my opinion, that is completely over the top, especially being the only person who doesn't actually eat the stuff. Normally I am a good sport. I load my plate with stuffing, green bean casserole and brussel sprouts. I don't even like brussel sprouts, but it's slim pickings during turkey dinner and a girl's gotta eat. With turkey dinner number three quickly approaching, I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands. And that is precisely what I did.
The solution lay within the pages of Bon Appétit. Just like that. Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding! A recipe, I was promised, that would hold it's own during a meal that is most commonly dominated by a gigantic roast bird.
Aside from being slightly time consuming, the recipe was simple and straightforward. The hardest part was cutting the butternut squash, which did not seem to want to be cut at all. Eventually I had it sliced into neat little one-inch cubes, but really, I was not prepared for such a fight. Unfazed by my battle with the squash, I pushed onwards. And I am so glad I did...
The end result was everything I had hoped it would be, and then some. When we all sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, I took a pass on the green bean casserole and brussel sprouts and instead headed straight for my bread pudding. Upon first bite, a smile crossed my face, and I just knew. It was perfect. The texture was delicate and the flavors were subtly complex. I had seconds, and I had thirds.
This baby held it's own oh so beautifully, and let me tell you, I was proud.

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2009

As per usual, I tweaked this recipe a bit. I used almond milk, instead of half and half. I also threw in an extra shallot, because after cutting four, I felt bad for the lowly one left over in the bag. Lastly, I used lactose-free cheese, which is my saving grace. I have posted the recipe as I found it in Bon Appétit, but I encourage you to experiment away.

2 pounds peeled seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
7 large eggs
2 ¼ cups half and half
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), torn/cut into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed, kale coarsely chopped
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt; bake until squash is tender, turning with spatula occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add half and half, wine, mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; whisk to blend. Add baguette pieces; fold gently into egg mixture. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (kale will be a bit crunchy).

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Generously butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to prepared baking dish, arranging to cover most of dish. Spoon half of kale over bread. Spoon half of squash over bread and kale; sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread pudding. Cover bread pudding with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until custard is set and bread feels springy to touch, about 20 minutes longer.

Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

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