A fabulous new Thanksgiving recipe from Ina Garten’s new cookbook “Cook Like a Pro” (available at Hammertown). Note from Ina: “I know I use butternut squash in many of my recipes, but I love it. In the fall, this is an easy dish to dress up a simple roast chicken or pork loin. I cook the squash with garlic and a little nutmeg, then put it in a gratin dish with a topping of crunchy bread crumbs and Gruyère cheese. This is serious comfort food on a cold winter night.”
Photo by Quentin Bacon from “Cook Like a Pro”
(Serves 6 people)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- Good olive oil
- 3 cups halved and thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 2 pounds butternut squash peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a country loaf
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease an 8-½ × 11-½-inch oval baking dish.
2. In a large (12-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Stir in the squash, nutmeg, 2 teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Spoon the squash mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top, making sure all of the squash slices are laid flat. Pour the cream over the mixture. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix in the Gruyère. Sprinkle evenly over the squash. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the squash is very tender when tested in the center with a small knife. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.
If You Can’t Cook, Cook This!
There is no more forgiving vegetable than squash, nor a food that more greatly flatters a mediocre cook. It’s the food equivalent of the friend who doesn’t get annoyed when you leave her waiting on a street corner (or in the squash’s case, in the back of the fridge for a month); it’s the spouse who brags about you in front of others, even when it’s not true.
Squash soup (for recipe, scroll to link at the bottom) was one of the first soups I made, that made me think,”Wow, I can cook!” Up to that point my greatest contribution to the culinary world had been Apple Brown Betty which I had perfected at the hands of my college roommates whose sunken standards had been set by the school’s institutional food service (aptly named Saga).
Cooking well is about confidence and practice. It’s not about being “correct”. Confidence trumps talent in the kitchen (in life too.) If you can taste, you can cook. Never let an ingredient intimidate. Squash may have a threatening exterior, but grab a butcher’s knife and it will submit to your requests. As Dr Spock famously said about child rearing, “You know more than you think you do.” Same goes for cooking.
What I add to embellish the soup has changed over the years, but the point remains — you’re more likely to make a pretty good squash soup than a terrible one.
What kind of squash to use – for this recipe I used a trio of Delicata (quite sweet), Butternut (little less sweet) and Acorn (less still). Mainly because that’s what I found at the market, but any will work. And if you want to avoid a scrap heap, the skin of acorn and delicata is very tender so leave some on! (Butternut skin is a bit tougher). The skin will soften when cooked and the only difference will be your soup will have a little more texture and a more rustic look, as it will be flecked with specks of skin.
Butternut and Delicata (above),
Those are the staples, but here is the trick …
cumin. I started adding ginger to “cool” the sweetness when I found that some squash can almost be too sweet, and the cumin just gives it a surprise kick.
Some squash trivia:
- It’s technically a fruit (since it contains the plant’s seeds)
- Cucumbers are also part of the squash family and are also a fruit
- The name means “a green thing eaten raw”, from the Native American word askutasquash (which likely refers to zucchini which is also a squash)
- It was one of the “Three Sisters” that the Native Americans planted along with beans and corn
- Winter squash (the thick skinned kind) is high in beta-carotene (Vitamin A) like carrots (especially the deep orange-fleshed ones)
See the finished soup and get the recipe.
How do you like to cook squash?