It's (un)officially winter here in my neck o' the woods - the heavy parka and fleece lined boots have come out of the basement and flannel sheets have cozied up the bed. The snow is deep and heavy and in the cold dark mornings my boots loudly crunch, and when I exhale you can see my breath rising to the stars. Long winter nights stretch out before me, and with that comes a cozy house: candles burn, twinkle lights twinkle, tea brews and keeps hands warm, cloves and cinnamon sticks simmer, the cats curl up in a cat nip-induced coma and the low hum of the furnace is the background acoustic. And then of course there are the cravings, mainly consisting of cheese and chocolate. Happily, wine goes with both.
Food gets cozy in these cold, cold months. A look around the larder can produce magnificence - case in point this little bread pudding. Stale bread can be reborn, quite beautifully, with layers of deep caramelized onions and garlic, the last of the white wine, chicken broth, a chunk of good cheese and a fresh bunch of kale. It's peasant food any peasant would be happy to eat; an accomplished side dish to turkey or the roast
Savoury Kale & Caramelized Onion Bread Pudding
1/4 cup butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 large bunch organic kale
8 cups 1" cubes day old rustic sourdough bread
6 ounces (180g) grated good cheese, like old cheddar or Gruyere
4 cups chicken stock, kept hot
2/3 cup toasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)
Remove leaves from kale, discarding the tough stems. Tear into bite size pieces and wash them well. Place them in a large pot, with a splash of water. Cover and cook over medium high heat until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Strain off any liquid and pour into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In the same pot, heat butter over medium heat, add onions and cook, stirring until they start to brown, about 15 minutes. (I always lightly salt my onions and add a bit of sugar to them at the beginning to get the caramelizing action happening.) Reduce heat to medium low and let them get golden brown, about another 15 minutes, stirring a little. Add the garlic, cook 2 minutes, then add the wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it reduce a bit, and season with salt and pepper. Scrape out into a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350*F. Spread out bread cubes on a cookie sheet and toast for approximately 8-10 minutes, until golden and crunchy. Set aside to cool.
In the same pot (make sure it is oven-proof or use a large casserole dish), place one third of the bread on the bottom, then top with one third EACH of the onion mixture, kale, shredded cheese and nuts, if using. Repeat until you have 3 equal layers. Slowly pour in the hot broth. Cover pot with either a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 25-30 minutes until liquid is reduced and top is golden brown. Serves 6-8. Adapted from House and Home, October 2012.