I’ve always said that I do these cook the book groups because I make a lot of recipes I’d just not really choose to get around to. This recipe had a lot of steps and the idea of mushy bread didn’t appeal to me. at. all. I think I’ve had one version of bread pudding dessert that I’ve liked. One. If I don’t like something these days, it’s usually a texture issue and this definitely seemed like that. I nevertheless soldiered on, making a 1/2 recipe, and decided to try the panade as it was supposed to be. And, I’m happily surprised to say that my predictions were wrong!
So, I ran out of bread, making my half recipe. I think someone ate too much sourdough toast (a favorite over here) one morning and left me shy a couple pieces for the panade. Oh well. It still worked out. And I forgot to put the cheese in the first layer of butternut squash because I was on the phone with the husband-type. The recipe forgave me.
This is not a good weeknight recipe, really. Everything took as long as Lebovitz predicted in the recipe. The onions, garlic, and herbs took about 45 minutes to reduce in the butter/olive oil. Then another 15 minutes to reduce with the wine and broth. Then, after layering, the panade took the 45 + 30 minutes.
What came out of the oven was an incredibly tasty mix of layered textures: crunchy from the bread edges (and the homemade vegan parmesan cheese I had to use because I forgot to restock the normal stuff), slightly grainy from the butternut squash, cheesy melty Comté, and then the bread! It was a perfect, smooth, almost pudding-like texture that was not at all off-putting and served as a base for the rest of the ingredients. The whole thing together was, really, fabulous. We all went for seconds!