Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall in the air, Squash in the Oven.

After a day of driving back and forth to Fredricksberg TX, the weather turned from hot and muggy to cool, breezy, and quite fallish! It is most welcome.
And along with the cooler weather comes cool weather cooking: ovens and the like are no longer abhorred, winter squash are in abundance, and tummies are looking to be warmed. Last year I had a beautiful crop of Butternut Squash, but decided to skip that garden filling crop this year. I think I'll try Acorns next year, as these little gems from the market were just delightful.

Baked Acorn Squash with Grilled Chicken and Leek Sauce.

1 Large chicken breast, boneless skinless, fat removed
2 Acorn Squashes
1 Large Leek
~2 cups veg or chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
salt, pepper, cumin, sage, bay, oregano, basil
White wine
corn starch

Halve the squashes, scoop out the innards to compost. Light spray with nonstick oil an sprinkle with seasoning salt. Place the squash halves upside down in a pan with about 1/4 inch of standing water into a preheated oven at 375. I used our handy dandy toaster oven on the convection setting since it was already about 6:45 and tummies were rumbling. On the convection setting at 375 these babies were completely done in 1/2 an hour. I left them setting there while i finished - but supposedly in a regular oven 1/2 hour is good upside down with a half hour needed right side up. So keep that in mind, my directions include a convection oven.

While the squashes are cooking, clean peel and chop a big ole' leek and put in a small pot with veg stock, diced garlic, one bay leaf, crumbled herbs of your liking (sage, oregano, basil, whatever) and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, then adding a small handful of pecorino cheese and dash white wine. Add more salt to taste. Remove bay leaf and blend with immersion blender until smoother and add one shot glass of corn starch/cold water (fill glass about 1/4 to 1/2 full of starch, add cold water to mix, add to hot sauce). Keep this sauce at a simmer until you need it.

While sauce is simmering and Squashes are baking, near their upside down completion, grill/saute a chicken breast in a hot, covered pan. Season on each side with generous cumin and seasoning salt. Sear each side, adding dashes of white wine to cause a good steam under the covered lid and caramelizing the flavors onto the chicken breast. Remove breast from pan, cut in half. Place one half into the simmering sauce(you can cut some up tonight for seconds, or save this for another tasty meal), the other half cut into smaller strips and add back to pan to be sure that it's cooked through, turn to sear all sides.

Finally, the squashes are done upside down after about 1/2 hour. Keep oven on, but remove squashes and flip rightside up to make little dishes. Remove chicken from searing pan and cut into cubes. Place chicken cubes into Squashes, sprinkle a little more pecorino and return to oven. On convection setting about 10 minutes did it.

When everything is cooked to your liking remove the squashes and plate with a side of peas and ladled with delicious leek sauce over squash and peas.

Yum Yum Yum. We ate it all, so no pictures, sorry.

All in all a pretty easy recipe to tend to and ignore while watching Bones, all at the same time. You can scoop the flesh out of the squash, or eat the skin - your preference. I usually do a little bit of both. Unwanted skin can be composted. I think this is a really nice alternative to the old 'sugar, honey, cinnamon' version of baked acorn squash. And much healthier!

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