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butternut squash, kale, and cheddar bread pudding

December 24, 2010

Um, so this was delicious. I mean, look at that list—how could you go wrong? (I know, I know, I just said that about another recipe. I’m running out of creativity after all that present-wrapping, okay?)

And yeah, it took a while to put together, but in the end, it was so perfect. It was warm and crunchy and cheesy and almost kind of healthy, especially since we used fat free half-and-half. Totally counts as a veggie, right? I was a little worried that the baked, wilted kale would weird me out, since things like cooked spinach generally do (why yes, I have been told before that I’m a picky eater!), but it worked very well, texturally, with the rest of the pudding.

We served this with herbed turkey meatballs with cranberry sauce that Chris had whipped up, and they went pretty perfectly together. It was like a Thanksgiving redux on a plate, but so much better than leftover turkey sandwiches. So uh, make this now. Because I said so.

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cheddar Bread Pudding
2 lb. peeled seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups) [we used the shrinkwrapped, pre-peeled/cut squash—honestly, it’s not worth spending that much more time and dulling your knife blade with fresh squash, especially when you have quite a bit more sous-chefing to do before you can eat]
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cups half-and-half
6 tablespoons dry white wine or hard cider
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups) [I bought a fresh baguette and toasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or so]
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1 lb.), ribs removed, kale coarsely chopped (can be substituted with spinach)
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash and 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
3. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Continue whisking as you add half-and-half, wine, thyme, sage, mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add baguette cubes to the egg mixture and gently fold them into the mixture to coat each side. Let the baguette pieces soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until soft and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover the pot and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (the kale will still be a little crunchy).
5. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to the dish, spreading evenly. Spoon half of kale over the bread layer. Spoon half of squash over the kale layer and sprinkle it with half the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread pudding.
6. Cover bread pudding with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until custard is set, about 20 minutes longer.
7. Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

Source: Ezra Pound Cake

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