The other day I posited whether there was anything better than homemade bread baking in the oven. I think perhaps there is: cubes of homemade bread baking in a creamy sage sauce with winter squash and onions.
The idea for this dish arose from the plethora of winter squash sitting in my basement and thoughts of Thanksgiving. My favorite Thanksgiving dish, hands down, is stuffing. It always has been. The sauteed onions, the contrast of slightly crispy bread edges with other chunks that have turned creamy from soaking up juices . . . it makes me feel hungry just thinking about it. For me, the essential ingredient for any good stuffing is sage, and lots of it. This bread pudding is reminiscent of stuffing, largely because of the sage, but is a main course, with soft white beans and squares of sweet winter squash. It’s comfort food at its best, but much healthier than the classic favorites, which are usually reliant on cream, butter, and cheese.
If you don’t have any plans for dinner tonight, I really hope you’ll try out this dish. It smells heavenly, and it’s hard to think of a better way to usher in the season. I served it with a green salad, but I think it would also be good with steamed green beans and cranberry sauce. If you have issues with wheat, I would try this would a brown rice pasta or brown rice instead of the bread. it will certainly be a different type of dish, but I think still delicious. When I made this, I used this artisan bread recipe, minus the thyme and garlic it calls for, although that would be good as well, I imagine. Any crusty bread should work, but make sure it’s a chewy, whole-grain loaf, not a spongy, white french bread, which will get soggy.
Veg Meal with Meat Option: Add in chopped ham or chicken instead of, or in addition to, the beans.
Speed it Up: When I made this, I had leftover cubes of roasted squash from the Winter Squash with Rice & Caramelized Onions recipe. (Before someone gets grossed out, I didn’t use two-week-old cooked squash, it just took me awhile to post this.) However, you could easily cut down on time by baking the squash in large chunks, instead of peeling and cubing the whole thing before cooking. For a butternut squash, wash it, then microwave it for 1-2 minutes. This is optional, but will make it much easier to cut. Cut it in four wedges, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 375 until tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes for a medium-size squash. Remove from oven. Once it’s cool enough to handle, slice off the skin and cube the flesh. Then use it in this recipe just like you would the roasted squash squares.
Special Diets and Allergies: Vegan and dairy free if you use non-dairy milk; vegetarian’ nut free. This is obviously inherently dependent on bread, but if you use gluten-free bread or the pasta/rice suggestion above, you can still make it wheat free.
Savory Bread Pudding with Squash & Sage
Serves 3-4 as a Main Dish
If your bread is not stale, lay it out on a cookie sheet and set it in the oven while it preheats, stirring once or twice, or toast it in slices before cubing it. I like the beans in this dish as they add some protein and a creamy flavor; however, you could definitely leave them out if you’re not a bean person. There are a number of variations that would work here, such as taking out the sage and using Dijon mustard instead. This would be especially tasty in a meat version with chopped ham or chicken. You can use any type of milk here, but if you use a non-dairy variety, make sure its unsweetened. My favorite here is Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original.
4 1/2 T olive oil
4 C winter squash, peeled and chopped into 1” cubes
3/4 t salt
3 1/2 t dried sage
3 1/2 T unbleached all purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/4 C milk of choice
1 C vegetable broth
6 C stale, Artisan-style bread, cubed into 1 to 2” chunks
3/4 C white beans
- Preheat the oven to 400 F and grease a 9 x 5” loaf pan.
- Toss the squash with 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat.
- Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast, stirring once, for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and browned on the sides.
- Remove from oven.
- Reduce oven’s heat to 375 F.
- While the squash is cooking, mix the flour, salt, and sage and set aside.
- Mix the vegetable broth with 1 C of the milk and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sautee until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sautee another minute or two, just until the garlic begins to let off its aroma, but not so long that it browns and burns.
- Stir in the flour mixture, then very quickly pour in the milk and vegetable broth mixture, whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
- Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula frequently, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Remove from heat.
- Add the bread, squash, and beans to the sauce and stir until combined. Pour into the bread pan and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and pour the remaining 1/4 C milk over the pan. Using a spatula, press the mixture down until the milk and sauce rise to the top of its surface.
- Return to oven and bake for another 40 minutes or until golden brown and set in the middle.