Monday, November 30, 2009

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

After lamenting a little bit over what we don't have this season, it may be very appropriate to say what I am thankful for. Squash is at the top of my list this year.

We've covered the acorn squash, but everyone knows that butternut is the squash (for the last two seasons, at least). If you've tried (and loved) Smitten Kitchen's Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Gallette, you know exactly what I'm talking about. We made one a few weeks ago, but since the squash we got was so big, the second half, already peeled and seeded, sat in the fridge for at least a week.

Running low on dinner ideas, I decided to try a butternut squash pasta sauce based on a bottle I had seen at Williams-Sonoma. They, of course, were selling it for an outrageous price in a quantity that would been unreasonable for us to own. I decided to take a stab at making my own, after reading the ingredient list, to toss with some angel hair pasta.

I failed to write down the recipe I was cooking, so most of these instructions are just "guestimates". Just trust your own taste and feel for consistency. Add the half-and-half or cream in intervals.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
I made this using what I had, but written this way, you just fill in whatever quantities you feel work.
1/2 of a medium butternut squash
Olive oil
1 handful Parmesan cheese
Half-and-Half to cover
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Dice the butternut squash into 1/2" pieces and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss into the oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool. In a blender or food processor, combine the Parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper with the squash. Cover with half and half and blend until creamy but not too liquid-like (you're going for a pasta sauce here...I trust you'll make that call). Serve over angel hair pasta, sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chicken Piccata with Capers and Sweet Corn

I am finding it very difficult to remember summer.

Watermelon, blackberries, peaches...It all seems so far away now, as I sit in my unheated apartment wearing three layers. But there was a time when fresh sweet corn was readily available, and I would stand over the trashcan and husk it just as the sun was setting (around 7 or 8 o'clock).

Though sweet corn season is over, I feel as though I should record this recipe just so I remember it for next year. It was the perfect combination of flavors--the salty capers, the sweet corn, the acidic lemon juice and crisp white wine. We came up with this one ourselves, just trying to get rid of a few ears languishing in the fridge. Maybe you'll try this with frozen corn, or mark it on your calendar for next year.

Chicken Piccatta with Capers and Sweet Corn
Serves 2
Adapted from Gourmet, October 1991

3/4 lbs. whole skinless boneless chicken breast, halved lengthwise
2 Tb. unsalted butter
1 Tb olive oil
4 Tb dry white wine
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
2 Tb drained bottled capers, chopped
3 Tb minced fresh parsley leaves (use 'em if you got 'em, but it is optional)
1/2 lb. spaghetti or angel hair pasta

Halve the chicken pieces horizontally with a sharp knife and flatten them slightly between sheets of plastic wrap. In a large, heavy skillet heat half the butter and the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. Saute the chicken pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper, 1-2 minutes on each side or until they are cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm (Aaron's mom taught us this trick--just stick in the microwave. It'll keep your food warm without even being on!). Add the wine, lemon juice, capers, and corn, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer for a few minutes, bringing the ingredients together. Serve over spaghetti or angel hair pasta, garnished with parsley.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash

As I know I've said before, my mom isn't much of cook. I love my mother, but I know she'd agree when I say that loathes grocery shopping, thinking about making dinner, and making dinner. I, on the other hand, revel in it.

So it should come as no surprise that my mother rarely prepared seasonal vegetables. I had never eaten butternut squash until I moved to Philadelphia. Now that it's become a staple in our apartment, we are branching out to other kinds of squash. As I type, there is a second beautiful acorn squash sitting on the window sill.

This recipe, from 101Cookbooks, takes awhile to make but isn't labor intensive. It just so happened that Alex and her friend Nick visited the night we planned on making it. One squash was plenty split between four people as a main dish.

Of course, this recipe was made (once again) on the tail end of corn season, but frozen corn works here as well.

Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash
serves 4
1 small (2 lb.) acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup milk
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (or more if you like)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
a tiny pinch of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Rub the orange flesh of the squash with oil. Place cut side up on a baking sheet. You will want it to sit flat (and not tip), if you are having trouble just level out the bottom using a knife. If the squash is tilting on the pan, the filling will run out - bad news. Cover the squash with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the squash starts to get tender.

In a bowl combine the milk, eggs, corn, half of the scallions, nutmeg, and salt. Fill each of the squash bowls (the original reads 3/4 full, but we just filled them. We baked the extra filling in ramekins). Carefully transfer the squash back to the oven without spilling (tricky!). Continue baking uncovered for another 30 - 50 minutes, or until the squash is fully cooked through, and the pudding has set.

The amount of time it takes can vary wildly depending on the squash and oven. At the last minute sprinkle with cheese and finish with a flash under the broiler to brown the cheese. Keep and eye on things, you can go from melted cheese to burnt and inedible in a flash. Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining scallions.

My apologies for not posting more lately--I've been super nerdy lately, writing papers and reading books. But I've still had time to cook a lot (though I don't necessarily remember to take photos) and have a few posts ready to go. Look out this week for the other two November posts.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cook Chicken.

I am not a vegetarian, but I rarely cook meat. There was honestly only two instances where I had in my last kitchen--steak, on Valentine's day, and Mrs. Hunter's chicken Dijon.

My anxiety over cooking meat has nothing to do with how gross it is, or ethical issues over where it comes from, but rather a fear that I will not cook it long enough and will give everyone food poisoning.

In an effort to face my fears, I've tried a few chicken recipes.

I'm really glad, too. This recipe was incredible--and so ridiculously perfect for a fall evening. I had it bookmarked for at least a year, and am really sad I didn't try it until now. I halved the cider cream sauce, made only two chicken breasts and served the whole thing over mashed sweet potatoes (to which I added nothing but butter, a little cream, and hot sauce--would have used adobo sauce if there had been any in the pantry).

Chicken Breasts with Apples and Cider Cream Sauce
From The Frog Commissary Cookbook, who served this dish to 800 people in 12 minutes at the Philadelphia Art Museum--this recipe only serves 6, though.

Cider Cream Sauce
2 cups apple cider
2 Tb Dijon mustard
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup flour, seasoned with 1 1/2 t each salt and pepper
1/2 c clarified butter (we used about 4 Tb of regular butter)
2 large tart apples, cored and cut into 1/4" slices (we used Winesap apples, my favorites)

Make the sauce. In a 2-quart saucepan, reduce the cider to 1/2 cup. Whisk in the mustard and cream and reduce to about 2 cups over medium high heat or until thickened like a sauce (it should coat a spoon). Add the seasonings and set aside.

Make the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Heat 6 Tb of the butter in a large skillet. Add the chicken and saute for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and saute for 3-5 minutes more or until done. Remove the chicken (we put it in the microwave to keep it warm, a great trick) and add 2 Tb of butter and the apples to the pan. Saute 3-5 minutes or just until tender. Pour any excess butter from the pan and add the cider cream sauce. Heat through while scraping up any little browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When hot, serve over the chicken breasts and serve with apples.