My friend recalled a time recently when the wallet ran slim: "100 dollars in the bank and red vermouth over ice." He's an especially attractive and magnetic presence, so this image of him perched at a bar, sipping the cheapest drink in the house, was one that lingered in my thoughts because of its vibrancy. A week later, however -- thanks to him, found me on top of my parent's washing machine, dusting off the labels of their never-touched liquor stash on the top shelf in the pantry, with my hand paused over a green bottle of vermouth.
It was a tantalizing substitution for the white wine that was lacking for the bread pudding recipe I had planned. Smelling its restraint and then venturing to taste it, the bittersweet aroma that wafted through my sinuses made me smile at the thought of my friend and think about how it would elegantly balance the pudding's Dijon cream custard. With the addition of sweet roasted squash, sauteed vermouth-spiked kale, and a sharp cheddar cheese -- the bread pudding stands as a commanding vegetarian headliner or as a substitution for the traditional herb-infused turkey stuffing upon the holiday table.
Roasted Squash and Kale Bread Pudding with Dijon and Vermouth Cream
adapted from Molly Wizenberg
The ingredients are broken down into the stages of preparation, which is why you'll see olive oil and salt listed more than once. Proceed with the recipe in the order of the ingredients, the process will follow suit.
I call for a starchy squash such as kabocha or buttercup because they are wonderfully sweet when roasted and hold their structure, but feel free to use another variety. * It is possible to make a vegan version of this: substitute a grain milk for the cream and the appropriate binding replacement for the eggs. A vegan spin for sharp cheddar cheese is a coarsely ground mixture of a cup of toasted nuts, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of lemon juice and some salt.
1 day old load of crusty bread, torn into 1" pieces -- 10 cups worth
1 small unpeeled kabocha squash, de-stemmed and scrubbed, seeded and cut into 1" cubes -- 6 cups worth
2 T olive oil
3/4 t sea salt
3 T olive oil
4 peeled shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 heads of kale, chopped or torn into bite sized pieces -- about 8 cups worth
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 t sea salt
2 T vermouth
2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
2 T Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vermouth (Dolin is highly thought of)
1 3/4 t sea salt
3/4 t grated nutmeg or black pepper (optional)
butter or olive oil for greasing
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, to garnish *
Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Toss the cubed squash, 2 tablespoons of oil and 3/4 teaspoon of salt together on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake until tender -- about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Over a medium-high flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced shallots and saute until tender and sweet. Add the chopped kale, garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of salt, stirring occasionally until the kale has wilted -- about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Combine gently with squash once it has cooled.
In a large bowl, mix the milk, cream, eggs, Dijon, vermouth and remaining sea salt together with a whisk. Add the bread, fold into the custard and let soak for half an hour.
Grease a large casserole dish with butter or olive oil (or a few smaller ones). With clean hands or a slotted spoon, add a layer of bread and follow it with a layer of the kale and squash. Repeat with remaining bread and vegetables and pour the remaining custard mixture on top of the assembled bread pudding. Garnish with cheddar cheese, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes, until the top has browned and the pudding springs to your touch.
This will keep for a couple of days and just needs to be covered again with foil and baked at 350F until hot.
Yields: enough as a side dish for 8
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes