Leave it to me to write something cryptic on the office party Thanksgiving potluck sign-up sheet. Under the desserts column, I just wrote “butternut squash surprise.” One skeptical colleague wrote “dessert??” underneath my claim. “Yep!” I replied, with confidence. Except I had no idea what to whip up. Another colleague joked, “Whatever the spirit moves you to make, eh?” Well, kind of, yeah. Last year I came up with this butternut squash pie, and it was a big hit, and couldn’t I just do it again this year and make it easy? I’m not one for easy, folks. When my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving out of our miniature galley kitchen without a dishwasher, we managed to use (and eventually clean) every one of our wedding gifts. So I don’t just do easy. Which is all to say that I couldn’t let my coworkers down with some recipe they’d already tried, that I knew like the back of my hand, and that was sure to please. Oh, no, no, no. I had to go out on a limb and try a brand-new recipe. And adapt it on the fly because I ran out of some ingredients. And then serve it to 30 of my coworkers the next day at a potluck. Hah! Crazy, right? I’ll go ahead and apologize for turning, once again, to the butternut squash; but it’s truly a workhorse of a vegetable. Make this dish for Thanksgiving later this week, and you’ll have your guests raving. It’s sweet, velvety, laced with spices, warm, inviting, and traditional enough, but unconventional all the same. The love-child of pumpkin pie and bread pudding, I like to say. And don’t skimp on the sauce – it really makes the dish. You might even serve this for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, before the afternoon festivities begin. Butternut Squash Bread Pudding with Tres Leches Sauce Adapted from Sunset Magazine Ingredients 1 loaf day-old bread (see note about using fresh bread) 1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs.) 2 cups whole milk 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1 cup heavy whipping cream 5 large eggs 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar Butter for pan Preparation 1. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and spread them on a baking sheet or clean counter. Let sit overnight. *If you’re short on time, you can bake the cubes for 1 hour at 175 degrees, so that they dry out, being careful not to toast them. 2. Preheat oven to 400. Carefully peel squash and cut into 1-inch cubes. Spread evenly over a baking sheet covered in foil, and bake for 15-25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until fork-tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Lower oven setting to 350. 3. Put half of the baked squash into a blender. Blend with the whole milk, granulated sugar, and spices until smooth. Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add eggs and blend just to combine. 4. Put bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and pour half the egg mixture over them, stirring very gently. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream into remaining egg mixture, stir, and pour entire mixture over bread. Let sit 30 minutes. 5. Meanwhile, put the rest of the squash into a medium mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and mash coarsely with a fork, leaving large chunks. 6. Gently stir squash and brown sugar into bread mixture. Butter a 9-by-13-in. pan and pour mixture into pan. Bake until set in the center, about 30-45 minutes. Serve warm, with Tres Leches Sauce. Original recipe can be found here.