Monday, January 11, 2010

Acorn Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding

This is not the dish I set out to make. What I wanted to make was Molly Wizenberg's Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding from the November 09 issue of Bon Appetit. I had already made her version once for a pot-luck. It was a super hit at the party and was also delicious when Kate and I wanted a snack a few hours later.

Unfortunately, Sunday night is not the ideal time to shop at an organic grocery; I think because there's no delivery. And this Sunday selection was especially ill-fated for me. Every major ingredient for this recipe (barring the cheddar) was out of stock!

Butternut Squash. No.
Kale (of any kind). No.
Baguette. No.

I was actually counting on the Sunday shop for the baguette, since Ms. Wizenberg calls for "day-old"--which Sunday baguettes almost certainly are--but, alas, no baguettes were to be found.

Not to be deterred (though, honestly, I almost was), I pushed on with alternative ingredients, a determination which gave me the chance to work on both my recipe improvisation and my optimism (two goals for the new year). The final dish actually turned out just as tasty as the original, especially because the Swiss chard added a little more color and flavor to the mix.

P.S. I am obsessed with Swiss chard.

*thank you lovely assistant*

Here's my improvised recipe:

Acorn Squash, Swiss Chard and Cheddar Bread Pudding
reluctantly, but happily adapted from Molly Wizenberg, BA Nov. 09
makes 6-8 servings

2 pounds acorn squash, sliced in half
3 TB olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cup half and half
6 TB dry white wine (plus the rest of the bottle for drinking)
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 day old large rustic bread (I used Pain au Levain), sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 c. chopped shallots
2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped separately, leaves coarsely chopped
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle squash with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for about 40 minutes, until tender--checking after 30 minutes. Allow to cool until you can handle them. Use a knife to score the skin, and then peel. (If anyone has a better way to peel these, let me know. This is just something I improvised when the ridged shape of the squash made peeling them raw difficult.) Chop into 1-inch cubes.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add half and half, wine and mustard; whisk to blend. Add bread pieces, folding gently into egg mixture. Allow to soak for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 TB oil in large pot and add shallots and chard stems. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chard leaves by the handful, cover and cook about 2 minutes. Uncover and cook until fully wilted, but still bright green, about 5 more minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Generously butter a large baking pan (13 x 9 inch). Using a slotted spoon, place 1/2 of bread pieces in the bottom of the pan, arranging to cover most of the dish. Add 1/2 chard mixture, then 1/2 of the squash and 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, squash and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over dish.

Cover bread pudding with foil and bake about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until custard is set and bread feels springy to the touch, about another 20 minutes.

Preheat broiler and broil pudding for 2 minutes, until cheese browns slightly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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