Dessert is the New Dinner: Savory Bread Pudding

Who needs breakfast for dinner? I'm on a roll with dessert for dinner. First it was a lovely Tomato Pie, and now, below is a lovely recipe I pulled together for a savory bread pudding filled with sausage, butternut squash and the queen of all greens: kale. What's next? Ice cream for dinner? Wait, I've done that. (I couldn't resist a pint of Häagen-Dazs if my life depended on it.) But, back to the bread pudding -- with a hint of spice and a dab of sweet, it's delicate yet dense, rich, and delicious. Served with a lightly dressed salad and a glass of wine, this makes for a terrific twist on a favorite dessert, er dinner.

Savory Bread Pudding
1-2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green, red or yellow pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
4 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 TBS brandy
3 TBS unsalted butter
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
1 TBS parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
6 cups cubed bread (Italian, French, Sourdough, etc.)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream  (or 1 cup whole milk plus 1 cup light cream)
3 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 TBS goat cheese

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss squash in olive oil to coat and roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender and starting to brown. Remove the squash from oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  • In the meantime, cook garlic with a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat until tender. Crumble the sausage and cook over medium-high until browned. (Note: I had some diced yellow pepper handy, so I added a handful to the pan, but you can omit if you want.) 
  • Stir in the brandy and butter and let cook about 5 minutes before adding in the kale.
  • When kale is tender but still bright green (about 3 minutes), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the roasted squash, parsley and red pepper flakes. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • While your sausage is browning or your squash is roasting, cut your loaf of bread into bite-size cubes. (I find it easier to cut the loaf into thick slices first, then cut those lengthwise into strips, then crosswise into cubes.)
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the cream and eggs until well combined.
  • Add the nutmeg, maple syrup, ginger and garlic powder, and a pinch or two of salt and mix together.
  • Add the bread cubes and gently stir until moistened. Let soak for about 10 minutes until liquid has absorbed completely.
  • Stir the sausage/kale/squash mixture (including any liquid) into the bread mixture and combine.
  • Transfer to a large, greased baking dish and pat down to fill completely.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, covering with foil for the first 30 minutes. 
  • When browned and lovely, dot the top with the cheddar and goat cheese, then bake for about 5 minutes more.
  • Let cool 10-15 minutes, then serve with a simple salad.

(Who says you can't have dessert first?)