This vegetarian recipe is the first of several in the 2009 collection of Thanksgiving vegetable recipes.
How to strike fear into a cook's heart? "Alanna, I'm bringing so 'n' so to Thanksgiving dinner. He's a vegetarian." Even though I was a vegetarian myself for many years, and often cook simple vegetarian and vegan meals, there's something about meat, well, that's celebratory.
The good news about this dish? It tastes good to everyone, carnivores and vegetarians alike. It feels special. It tastes substantial. And it smells divine while it's baking! One of my book club tasters walked in the door asking, "What smells so good in here?" and another, "You could bottle that aroma ..."
Here's what makes this bread pudding work:
- Proportions - This is an 'unbready' bread pudding, light on bread and heavy on vegetables. I use about a 4:1 vegetable:bread ratio.
- Good Bread - A flavorful, slightly dense whole-grain bread is perfect for bread pudding. It doesn't 'deflate' with the weight of vegetables and custard, it holds its own. And it's not just filler, the bread itself actually tastes good.
- Contrast - The butternut squash and the cheddar are quite creamy. In contrast, the chard is slightly astringent, that's a good thing!
RECIPE for SAVORY BREAD PUDDING with BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CHARD & CHEDDAR
Time to table: 2 hours (can be made ahead)
Serves 8 as a main course, 16 as a side dish
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
2 large bunches Swiss chard, washed well, stems discarded, leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, whisked
1-1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons good mustard (what is 'good mustard'?)
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A generous sprinkle of freshly ground pepper
1 butternut squash, washed well, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes (aim for 1-1/2 pound of squash cubes, see how to cut, peel & cube a butternut squash and keep all ten fingers)
1/2 pound whole-grain bread, crusts on, cut into half-inch cubes (see Kitchen Notes)
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut in 1/3-inch cubes
The set-aside cooked onions
CHARD In a large skillet, melt the butter til shimmery. Add the onions and cook until just soft. Set aside half the onions. Add the chard a big handful at a time and stir to coat with fat. Let it cook a minute or two, then add another handful. When all the chard is added, let cook until soft. Add salt and set aside.
CUSTARD Mix all custard ingredients together.
ASSEMBLE (If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375F.) In a large bowl, combine the squash, bread, cheese and cooked onions. Transfer HALF the mixture to a lightly buttered baking dish about 8x11 or 9x13. Arrange the cooked chard evenly on top, then the remaining squash-bread-cheese mixture. (See Notes, if making ahead, you may choose to stop here.) Gently pour custard mix over top, being careful to wet all the bread pieces, especially.
BAKE Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. If any pieces of butternut squash are still firm, gently push them into the custard. Cover and bake for another 15 or so minutes. Let rest for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Reheats well.
TO PREP AHEAD This bread pudding can be made ahead in two ways. It can be fully assembled, then baked a few hours later. Or the bread-squash-chard-cheddar mixture and the custard mixtures can be prepped the day before, then combined just before baking. With the first method, the bread pudding is slightly crusty on top, very good. With the second, the bread pudding is more custard-y, also very good. Cook’s choice!
Bakers, consider a batch of homemade bread for this bread pudding. I'm especially fond of this Light 'n' Fluffy Whole-Grain Bread but also this Whole Grain Bread (without the beets).
This is a great base or 'concept' recipe, begging for adaptation. I think cornbread would be a fabulous substitute for whole-grain bread. I wanted to add fennel to the chard and corn to the overall mixture but ran short of room. Sweet potatoes? Of course. Kale or spinach instead of chard? Naturally. For a meat version, I'd add cooked pork sausage, chunks of cooked bacon or cubes of smoked ham.
Note to Vegetarians
~ Butternut Mac 'n Cheese ~
~ Winter Squash Polenta ~
~ Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Glaze ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~
~ more vegetarian supper recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Squash Puff ~
~ Acorn Squash with Quinoa & Cherries ~
~ Winter Stew ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~
~ more vegetarian & vegan recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade