This is based on an Alton Brown recipe for Sweet Corn Bread Pudding. The original uses stale bread cubes, creamed corn, and a cornmeal-parmesan custard to create a savory amalgam of bread pudding and cornbread with a little spoon bread thrown in for good measure. It is comfort food, and I've served it as a vegetarian substitute for dressing at Thanksgiving in past years. This time I infused the recipe with one of my favorite fall flavor combinations: winter squash, leeks, and Gruyère. I first tried the combo in a recipe from the Fields of Greens cookbook for a pastry turnover, and was immediately smitten. I used frozen winter squash purée, but by all means substitute with homemade if you've got it. Use any dry bread you've got, just remove thick crusts as they don't soften up well. —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: hardlikearmour is a Pacific Northwest-based cook, cake decorator, and veterinarian.
WHAT: A comforting, vegetarian side that will stick to your ribs in the best way.
HOW: After the leeks are nice and slouchy, it's just a quick mix of the base and in the oven it goes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This corn bread pudding ingeniously uses yeasted bread in place of cornbread, gleaning its classic flavor from cornmeal folded into the mix. It's a smart move: the sturdier bread cubes hold up well during cooking, which creates a nice texture and crumb in the final dish. —The Editors
Combine winter squash, half-and-half, and eggs in a small bowl or large glass measure. Set aside. Combine cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, baking powder, black pepper, aleppo or cayenne pepper, and Gruyère in a large bowl. Set aside.
Heat half of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the foaming has subsided, add the leek slices and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook until soft and just starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. When leeks are almost done, add the squash mixture to the cornmeal mixture. Scrape the leeks into the squash and cornmeal mixture (it's okay if there are a few stragglers left in the pan).
Add remaining butter to the skillet and return the skillet to medium-low heat.
Stir together the leek, squash, and cormeal mixture until combined. Fold in the bread cubes, and adjust salt to taste. Pour into the skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until puffed and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.