Forget the Kugel
Warm and Comforting, Break Your Fast with Bread Pudding
Mushroom-Cheese and Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
I have never been a kugel enthusiast. I like the idea of comforting warm noodles baked with savory or sweet fixin’s , but the paradox is that I am not a fan of soft-mushy pasta. I guess it is because, as a chef, I struggle to serve perfect al dente pasta that is toothy and with a little bite left in it.
Somehow my dislike for soft noodles does not translate to soft bread. I know this is not logical, but I am breaking my Yom Kippur fast with a warm, welcoming bread pudding. Even the name, Bread Pudding, screams COZINESS, and that is what I need after the fast.
I like the thriftiness of using leftover bread versus cooking noodles just for a dish that I know will cause them to become bloated and soft. I also enjoy the versatility of bread pudding with its ability to make any combination of vegetables and cheeses taste like a gourmet treat. Sure, it is peasant food, but a more sincere dish does not exist.
This year, when you break the fast, try this delicious bread pudding.
1 (1-pound) loaf crusty country-style white bread or leftover Challah
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, button, portobello, and stemmed shiitake), thinly sliced
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
- Cut bottom crust and short ends off bread and discard. Cut remaining bread with crust into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in very large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return toasted bread cubes to same large bowl.
- Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, fennel, and butternut squash. Sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and parsley to bread cubes.
- Whisk heavy cream, eggs, salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Sprinkle cheese over the top. The bread pudding can be prepared 1 day ahead to this step and can be stored covered in the refrigerator for one day.
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Bake pudding uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes.
Scoop the bread pudding onto serving plates and serve piping hot.