Pilar Valdes' Savory Bread Pudding
I think this recipe is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table. It leans into some of those classic, cozy thanksgiving ingredients and flavors that you’ll probably already have on hand, and is a perfect vegetarian entree or hearty side.
You can use any edible pumpkin (like a sugar pumpkin), but I actually prefer a hard-skinned winter squash (like a red kabocha) which has less sweetness and more richness. When picking them out, make sure that the skins are unblemished and intact; you’re looking for the more even and squat shaped ones, that flatten out at both stem and base. We fill the squash with a savory bread pudding, chock full of comforting flavors like nutmeg, caramelized leeks, woody herbs and melty cheese. The final dish is served whole at the table, which doubles up as a stunning and delicious centerpiece. (And yes, you can absolutely make iinto individual servings by using smaller squashes!)
Savory Bread Pudding
- 2 Sugar Pumpkins Or Red Kabocha Squash, about 6” across (2.5-3 lb max each), rinsed and brushed clean
- 1/2 Cup Water or Vegetable Stock
- 2/3 Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Coriander
- 1/2 Tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp Roughly Chopped Woody Herbs I love a combination of Thyme, Rosemary and a touch of sage
- 6 Oz Crusty Sourdough Bread Cut into 1" cubes
- 2 Medium Leeks Cleaned and cut into 1/2" half moons
- 2 Large Leaves of Rainbow Chard But you can also use plain chard or even substitute with other hearty greens like kale or collards
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil Plus more for drizzling
- 1 Clove Garlic Finely sliced
- 2 Oz Grated Gruyere Cheese
- 2 Scallions Roughly chopped
- 1 Lemon Juice and Zest
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the stock (or water), heavy cream, eggs, mustard, paprika, coriander, nutmeg, lemon zest and woody herbs. Mix in the cubed bread, season with a couple of pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes but not longer than 2 hours (we don’t want to lose too much of the texture of the sourdough.)
In a skillet set over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and swirl the pan. Add the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Saute until tender and translucent but not browned, about 7 minutes. Bump the heat up and add the garlic and saute briefly, and then add the swiss chard (leaves and stems). Season with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cook down and wilt, about 2-3 minutes more. Set aside and allow to cool.
Using a serrated paring knife cut a wide circle (halfway to ⅔ between the stem and the squash’s edge - we are going for a wide mouth) to remove the top of the squash. Hollow out the seeds and stringy fibers (and save those for another use - like stocks, sauces or toasted seeds.) Place the squash on a prepared sheet pan. Season the insides with salt and black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Combine the leek mixture with the bread mixture, and then add the scallions, lemon juice and ⅔ of the gruyere. Toss lightly to combine. Divide the mixture evenly into the prepared squash; make sure to use up any remaining liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Top with the remaining gruyere and press the mixture down so that it fills the cavity. Place the squash lid on top and drizzle olive oil all over the outside of the pumpkin. Cover each pumpkin with a piece of foil and place in the oven. Bake, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the flesh of the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a knife.
Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before bringing to the table.