Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Butternut Squash, Kale and Cheddar Bread Pudding

I have been reading a lot lately about people doing a "Meatless Monday" in an attempt to be healthier, and its supposed to be much better for the environment.  I thought it would be a great way to get out of the chicken rut I sometimes find myself in.  In general, I base a lot of my dinners around chicken as it is both cheap and easy.  So, this post here starts my attempt at sticking with Meatless Mondays.  However, as you will see, this first one is in no way helping me get healthier...but it was so worth it!

I stumbled upon this butternut squash and cheddar bread pudding recipe on YumSugar and thought this was reason enough to go for Meatless Monday!  Also, this Monday happened to be one of the coldest days I can remember, so this comfort dish really was going to hit the spot.

The necessities:
  • 2 pounds peeled seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups half and half
  • 6 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), torn 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
Something to note, however: I halved the recipe, because 6 or 8 servings seemed like a lot.

I knew this dish was going to take a bit of time to prepare, so I got home and immediately set to work because I was hoping to eat at a decent hour rather than after 9pm!  So, when I looked through the recipe, I saw that the egg mixture was going to have to sit for 30 minutes and the squash was going to have to roast for 20 to 25 minutes.  So I actually multi-tasked!

First, I prepared the egg mixture by taking my baguette and cutting/ripping it into smaller (about 1 inch) pieces. 

Bread Chunks
Next, I whisked the eggs in a large bowl and added the half and half, wine, mustard and salt.  Once it was all combined, I added my cubed bread and set the bowl aside for 30 minutes.  

Soaking Bread
Next, I grabbed my butternut squash and and cubed that into 1 inch pieces as well.  Once thing that made preparing this dish a lot easier was buying a pre-skinned and seeded squash. 

Easy Squash
All I had to do was cut it up.  I placed the pieces on a baking sheet that was drizzled with olive oil, drizzled some more on top along with some salt and mixed everything together. 

Ready for roasting
I put the baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  Occasionally, I moved the squash pieces around for even cooking.

Then, I chopped my shallots and de-ribbed the kale. 

Chopped Shallots

Now, I did not really check what de-ribbing kale entailed, so I just cut out the leafy part from the big center part.  I did not do this very carefully at all since I was not particularly worried about wasting kale.  I think you could easily do this with your fingers!  Once the ribs were removed I chopped up the greens.  
Chopped Kale
Having prepared everything, I added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot, allowed it to heat up, and then added the chopped shallots. 

Cooking shallots
I let these cook in the pot, while stirring them often, until they were soft, which was about 5 minutes.  Then I added the kale and covered the top.  After 2 minutes I removed the cover and stirred the kale constantly for the next five minutes, until the kale was a bright green color.

Kale turning bright green
At some point during this preparation process I managed to grate some Cheddar cheese (only eating a little bit!).
Grated Chedder
At this point the three different components of the dish were ready to go. 

Egg mixture almost all absorbed
So I generously buttered (or "Pamed") my 8x8 dish (half size) and using a slotted spoon, added about half of the bread cubes.  Basically it was enough to cover the bottom of the dish.  Next, I added about half of the kale to the baking dish, trying to evenly coat the bread layer.  Next I added about half of the roasted squash to the dish and got some of the cheese in there as well.

One layer done
Then I repeated the process using the rest of the prepared ingredients and sprinkled the dish with the cheese. 

Ready for the oven
I dumped the rest of the egg mixture over the entire dish, covered it with tin foil and placed it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Then, I took off the tinfoil and allowed it to cook for another 20 minutes, or when the top started to brown up a bit - how brown is up to you I guess!  This dish is piping hot when it comes out of the oven so be sure to allow it to cool for about 5 minutes - even when everything in you wants to eat it immediately.  I speak from experience.

Finally ready to eat!
I can safely say this dish totally fit the bill for the frigid night.  It was warm and comforting.  No side dishes were necessary or anything - just a bit of wine.  This was my first time really ever eating kale (I only have ever used it as a garnish) but I was totally surprised by how much I liked it!  It is a great alternative to the green leafy veggies I am so used to using.  I think next time I may use milk instead of half and half in an effort to cut calories a bit, but overall this was a great start to Meatless Mondays!

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