The first time I made this, I thought to myself, “this tastes like Thanksgiving,” and made a mental note to put it on the menu of our Thanksgiving celebration in Palo Alto. Roasted butternut squash and shiitake mushrooms provide a lush sweetness, whole grain bread seasoned with garlic and herbs stands in for stuffing, seitan adds a hardiness which moves this dish into the category of main event at a serious meal, and a creamy vegan bechamel sauce ties it all together. Yes, there’s a bit of work involved, but that’s what you’d expect from the centerpiece of a celebratory meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SEITAN SAVORY BREAD PUDDING
Preheat oven to 400º F
(serves 8, generously)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5-6 medium mushrooms, sliced (shiitakes, preferably)
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons dried herbs de provence, or herbs or choice
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
3 cups (lightly packed) whole wheat bread cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups chopped, well-seasoned seitan (about 1 1/4 pounds)
For the bechamel sauce:
4 cups soy milk
1/4 cup rice flour (or whatever thickener you prefer)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon white miso
1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine the butternut squash, onions, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and sage in a 9 x 11-inch or similar size casserole or baking pan. Toss with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400º F oven about 40 minutes. Stir in the bread, stir, and continue roasting another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Lower oven heat to 375º F.
2. Meanwhile, to make the bechamel sauce: combine 3 cups of the soy milk and the nutritional yeast in a sauce pan, just bring to a boil.
3. Dissolve the flour in the reserved cup of soy milk, stir this slurry into the soy milk on the stove. Whisk, until the soy milk has thickened. Turn off heat and stir in the miso and umeboshi vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Once the ingredients in the casserole are tender, remove the casserole from the oven and pour the sauce over the top, smooth out evenly. Return to the oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until the pudding is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Serve piping hot. Reheat it if you make this ahead of time.