This recipe is my gluten-free, anti-candida take on a recipe that The Nurse gave to me quite some time ago, for a Wine and Cheese Charlotte (a savory version of the classic dessert). I’ve had the recipe since I was in my teens, but hadn’t thought about it for decades.
Like so many young girls, as a teen I looked up to my older sister, who (at the time) seemed so much more worldly than I, so much wiser and more talented in so many areas (and who had naturally thick, blond hair that hung down past her waist, perhaps the major source of my teenage envy). I still do consider her a role model today–just not in the same areas that seemed so important to me back then.
When The Nurse was first married and began entertaining at her new home, I was barely out of high school. And while baking was already entrenched in my repertoire, I hadn’t quite made the leap to savory cooking at that point.
This charlotte featured prominently at a family brunch she threw while still a newlywed. It took center stage on the table, which practically heaved with platters of salad (pasta, potato, greens), smoked fish, deviled eggs, stuffed cherry tomatoes and all manner of cookies and sweet bars, which were cut into perfectly identical rectangles or diamonds (my sister’s specialty). At the time, the combination of soft buttered bread, soaked in a bath of eggs whipped with broth and wine, all tossed with grated Gruyère and baked until puffed and golden, was a revelation to my callow self. I couldn’t stop scooping mounds of the light, airy dish, strings of gooey Swiss stretching between the casserole and spoon as it made its way to my waiting plate. I requested the recipe and subsequently made that charlotte for dozens of my own dinner parties and social gatherings over the years.
My allergy-friendly version is a tad heavier but just as tasty and moreish. You’ll enjoy a pillowy, creamy, cheesy soufflée-like dish, perfect for spooning onto your plate for special occasions–or just because. Let’s eat!
Savory “Wine & Cheese” Charlotte
suitable for ACD Stage 3 and beyond
A kind of savory bread pudding, this charlotte is very reminsicent of soufflé, though a wee bit denser, and perfect for a party or brunch table. The combination of cashews, squash, dijon and apple cider vinegar mimic the flavors of wine and cheese admirably here. This is best served hot from the oven.
8-9 slices mildly-flavored bread (I used sourdough rice bread), cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes–see note
3 cups (720 ml) vegetable stock or broth
1 heaping cup (140 g) raw cashews
1 cup (240 ml) squash or pumpkin purée (about 10 oz/290 g)
1/3 cup (80 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) dijon mustard
1 Tbsp (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
5-10 drops plain stevia liquid, to your taste
2 cloves garlic, quartered
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease an 8-cup (2 liter) casserole dish with coconut oil, or spray with nonstick spray.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and set aside.
Bring the broth to a boil and turn off heat. Add the cashews to the pot and allow to soak for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place all remaining ingredients except for the bread in a blender. Add the cashews and broth and blend until smooth. You should have a very creamy liquid, but one that is easily pourable. If it’s too thick to pour, add a bit more broth.
Pour the cheese sauce over the bread in the bowl and toss gently to coat all the cubes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, until the bread is mostly soaked through with the sauce (it’s okay if there’s excess sauce in the bowl).
Gently spoon the mixture (the bread may be fragile and crumble otherwise) into the casserole dish. If there is any cheese sauce left in the bowl, pour it over the bread in the casserole and smooth the top (the ratio of sauce to bread may seem high, but even more of it will be absorbed as the casserole bakes).
Bake 55-70 minutes in preheated oven, rotating the casserole dish about halfway through, until the charlotte is puffed and browned on top. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Makes 10-12 servings. May be frozen: freeze individual portions in freezerproof containers, then defrost overnight in the refrigerator before re-heating (about 30 minutes at 350F/180c; sprinkle with 1/4 cup extra broth if necessary when reheating).
Note: The exact number of bread slices you need will depend on how heavy your bread is; the rice sourdough I used is very heavy (8 slices weighed 15.5 ounces or 445 g). If you use a lighter bread (a regular sandwich-type loaf), you may need a couple more slices. The bread cubes should, ideally, soak up most of the “cheese” sauce before you transfer the mixture to your casserole dish.
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