What’s been for dinner lately:
Sheet pan pizza with prosciutto, Parmesan, and white sauce. The crust is from America’s Test Kitchen’s “Pizza al Taglio with Arugula and Mozzarella,” but I baked it with a Parmesan/garlic white sauce, fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, and prosciutto. [There’s a paywall on this site.]
Beef stir fry. This is just a version of the one I make on the grill in the summer, with more veggies. I used some steamed frozen broccoli to avoid the longer cooking that fresh broccoli requires.
Rigatoni and butternut squash casserole with pancetta and Parmesan. Just like the one I’ve made before with bacon, but I find the pancetta to be milder and less overpowering than the bacon.
Boston Cream Pie—made this for my husband’s birthday. Specifically the Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie from America’s Test Kitchen. One word of caution: The written recipe omits the most important line from the video. When making the pastry cream, you don’t stop when bubbles break the surface; you continue whisking until the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the pan, sort of like when making jam. Otherwise the pastry cream will be runny. It’s a delightful cake. [There’s a paywall on this site.]
We like butternut squash roasted in chunks until they brown on the edges, or mashed with butter and salt, and especially in butternut squash risotto. Today I figured it was time for something else, and I wondered how difficult it would be to get the heavy mashed pulp to rise in a soufflé. I haven’t made a soufflé for eons, but I remember the high hat that puffs out of the dish before it falls a little, and the airy texture of the soufflé in your mouth. Surely this one will be different, still with a lighter texture than simple mashed squash, but not like a squash custard.
“Soufflés have the same kind of life as the ‘breath’ for which they are named. . . .”
My old Joy of Cooking (1967) has a whole section on soufflés—the one with eggplant looks yummy—but I have only ever made the traditional cheese soufflé. It starts with a thick white sauce, but that wouldn’t be necessary when you start with a thick mashed vegetable like squash or sweet potatoes. In the eggplant soufflé, there are breadcrumbs and chopped nuts mixed with the eggplant pulp, but a little milk is only recommended if the mixture seems “stiff.” It’s that point before you fold in the beaten egg whites that determines whether you need more moisture. The sweet potato soufflé uses a little applesauce for that moisture. If I need it, I will use a little milk, but I think I will try to infuse both moisture and lightness with eggs alone—4 eggs in total.
I’ll be mixing the squash, seasonings, and egg yolks in a food processor to a smooth puree, and then folding in the beaten egg whites by hand in a large bowl, but you could make it all by hand or with a hand mixer up to the egg white stage.
Buttered dish dusted with Parmesan
Folding in egg whites
Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé
Recipe Timing: Timing this recipe depends on your method of cooking the squash. If you roast it in the oven, whole or peeled and in chunks, that will take time, but it could be done the day before, especially since it should cool before mixing with eggs. I cooked mine, whole, in the microwave for 10-16 minutes, so that expedited the process. With cooked squash, the rest of the recipe goes quickly, even with separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites.
Baking dish tips: Butter a 1 1/2 qt baking dish with high sides. Dust the bottom and sides of the dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese or flour. A dish with a smaller round circumference and higher sides works better than a low-sided larger dish, such as an 8 or 9 inch square baker.
Preheat oven to 350°
1 medium-large butternut squash, cooked—about 2 cups
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
- In bowl of food processor, combine squash, bacon fat, and seasonings to a puree. Taste for seasoning before adding egg yolks. Add egg yolks and pulse to blend.
- Transfer squash puree to large bowl. Fold in beaten egg whites with large spatula—a silicone spatula with a large paddle works better than a small one. Mine measures 5″ and is curved to fit the sides of bowls. Mine is blue, but you can see it in red here: http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Silicone-Mixer-Spatula-Red/dp/B0095PC75C
- Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then check to make sure the center has risen to the same height as the edges. If it is sunken in the middle, let it go for another 10 minutes.
- It does rise in the baking dish, but if you want a photo, take it quickly, because the whole thing sinks about an inch in a few minutes. I forgot to get one until it was too late.
The texture is lighter and airier than a squash custard (such as a pumpkin pie) but a little heavier than the traditional cheese soufflé made with white sauce. The edges/sides—if you dust the dish with grated cheese—have a nicely browned crust. A soufflé is a nice change for a traditional vegetable side dish. Think of all the ways you can work vegetables into one.
I picked up a variety of winter squash this weekend—butternut, delicata, and spaghetti—and it’s easy to let them be the inspiration, the star in a meal. Butternut is my favorite, especially in risotto, but today, I’m making it the star of lasagna, along with bacon, sage, shiitake mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. I’m leaving out the heavy cheeses—ricotta and mozzarella—so that the squash stands out. Still, it will be plenty rich enough, even though I’m making the béchamel with 2% milk.
The combination of squash and sage produced a sweet filling with floral notes. My husband pretended to not know what that means, although I know he knows what a flower is.
Roast the squash ahead of time:
Dice and toss with oil
Roast for about 30 mins
Infuse the butter for the béchamel with sage leaves, remove, then brown the mushrooms:
Infuse with sage, then remove leaves
Sliced shiitake caps
Make layers of no-boil noodles, squash, bacon, béchamel, and parmesan:
First layer before cheese
Second layer with cheese
Top layer gets sauce and cheese
Bake, covered with foil for 30 mins, then uncovered for about 20 mins or until browned and noodles are done:
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Roast Squash and Bacon
Preheat oven to 400°
about 4 lbs butternut squash (I had two medium squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
6-8 slices thick-sliced bacon
- Peel, seed, and cut squash into 1/2 inch dice.
- Toss with olive oil and spread out on non-stick baking pan or pan lined with parchment. My sheet was a little overcrowded, but it worked out fine.
- Roast for about 30 mins or until tender and browned.
- Put bacon slices on a second pan lined with non-stick foil. Put it on a second shelf or put it in the oven when the squash is done. The bacon only needs 15 mins.
- Set squash aside to cool or refrigerate if making another day. Chop or break bacon into small crumble.
Make Béchamel (medium white sauce)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
fresh sage leaves, about 6-8 leaves
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat with sage leaves, cooking until you can smell the sage and the butter is bubbling. Remove the sage leaves.
- Brown the mushrooms in the butter—about 5 minutes or until browned.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Stir in flour until combined and free of lumps. You could add a little more butter or a little oil, if you think too much has been absorbed by the mushrooms. Usually if you cook them long enough, they give back the fat. You can tell if you need more if the mixture is dry and the flour cannot be completely incorporated.
- Slowly pour in the milk, which you can warm in the microwave first for quicker cooking. Just once, I’d like to find a measuring cup that pours without running its contents down the side and onto the stove and floor.
- Stir until the sauce is thickened, maybe 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
Assemble Lasagna and Bake
Preheat oven to 350° (or lower if you just made the squash and bacon)
Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish
1 package whole wheat, no-boil lasagna noodles
2-3 cups shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Place one cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
- Arrange three lasagna noodles over the sauce, evenly spaced in the dish. You could certainly use more if you are concerned about covering every inch of the dish, but the servings are easier to cut if the noodles are fewer.
- Arrange half the roasted squash over the noodles, sprinkle with half the bacon, cover with 1/3 the sauce and up to 1 cup of the cheese.
- Top with three more noodles and make a second layer as the first.
- Top the second layer of filling with three more noodles. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil that is tented a little—it helps if the foil has a non-stick side against the casserole.
- Bake for at least 30 minutes.
- Uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the top is browned and the noodles are tender.
Another fall dish with the butternut squash. I adapted this dish from Martha Stewart’s What to Have for Dinner (New York: Time, 1995), a compilation of recipes from her magazine, arranged by season. I always found it to be a good post Thanksgiving dish to use up all the turkey stock I had from cooking the turkey carcass, even though the recipe calls for chicken stock.
My changes are few:
- Using more stock instead of wine
- Using sage instead of rosemary
- Using ready-made stock if I don’t have any of my own on hand
- In addition, Stewart’s risotto uses mashed butternut squash, which makes a really thick and hearty consistency to the final product. I like to use half mashed squash and half cubed for a little variety in the consistency.
- I have made the same recipe with long-grain brown rice, which adds a whole different taste, but today I used the arborio rice called for in traditional risotto.
You can find Stewart’s recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/338749/butternut-squash-risotto
Note: If there are people in your family who, like my husband, don’t recognize al dente as a valid stage of doneness, you don’t have to cook the risotto to death, just cover the pan when it’s done and let it sit and steam for a few more minutes until the grains of rice are more fully tender.