A vegetable packed, autumnal casserole, perfect for dinner or brunch! Adapted from Vivian Howard's recipe "Stuffed Butternut Bottoms" in her cookbook Deep Run Roots.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Peel, and cube the squash (pulp and seeds discarded) into ½ inch pieces. Try to make them as uniform as possible so that they cook evenly.
Toss squash with a few Tablespoons of oil, a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and the brown sugar.
Place on a foil lined baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Then stir and cook an additional 10-15 minutes. The tip of your knife or fork should pierce the squash easily, but it should not be mushy, or you will have a mushy casserole. Watch it carefully and keep testing it so that you do not overcook it. Set aside to cool.
Heat a skillet (choose a skillet with a lid, because you will need the lid later) over high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the sausage along with a pinch of salt. Crumble and brown the sausage until fully cooked. Transfer the sausage to a bowl and allow to cool.
When the sausage has cooled, add the shredded cheddar cheese and stir to combine.
Reheat the skillet that the sausage was in, and add a tablespoon of butter or oil if there is not enough sausage drippings to cook the leeks in. Cook the leeks, garlic, and red pepper flakes over medium heat, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Once the leeks are softened, add the kale (press it down and cram it in the pan) and then add the apple juice and put the lid on. Allow the liquid to steam and begin wilting the kale. As the kale begins to shrink, open the lid and give it a stir, then replace the lid and let it continue wilting for another minute. You want it tender but not totally soggy. When the volume of the kale has wilted to a controllable level, remove the lid and continue stirring until just about all of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with another small pinch of salt. Taste the kale and add more salt if necessary.
Pour 1 Tablespoon of melted butter or oil over the panko breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Then mix in the parmesan cheese.*
In a 13x9 baking dish add the butternut layer first, then the sausage and cheddar cheese layer, then the greens layer. Finally sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and breadcrumb mixture and place the casserole in the oven (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes. This time may vary depending on how long your ingredients have been cooling. Just be careful not to over cook your casserole or your squash will become very mushy.
This is delicious served with garlic bread or texas toast! Or if you are having it for breakfast or brunch, add a fried or poached egg!
*You can use pre-grated, but it doesn't melt very nicely. I regretted using pre-grated when I made this dish for the photos. It also sticks to itself and makes it difficult to portion out the casserole.
If you are making this dish ahead of time, do not add the cheese and breadcrumb mixture. Cover the dish with foil and heat it until warmed through. Remove from the oven, and turn the oven to low broil. Uncover the casserole and add the breadcrumb and cheese topping and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cheese has melted.