Monday, April 20, 2009

Buttnernut Squash Sauce Recipe! (for Men)

Firstly, let me apologize for the lact of illustrative imagery. I will, shortly, have pictures for this and you can gasp at the sheer beauty of this incredibly easy and impressive recipe! Anyone that knows me... knows that I love to blog, but rarely find the motivation. So, please let this entry serve as a worthwile post based on its on merit. Basically, this was good enough to pull me away from video games... so its a good read-- a long read, but a good read! I threw in a lot of editorial comments. This is for us "novices" who want to know WHY we're doing something. After all... learning isn't about reading directions... its about ABSORBING THE CONCEPTS.

Let me first say, that this recipe is dedicated to the people who want to impress, but are too intimidated by gourmet cooking to try much of anything. Moreover, this recipe is dedicated to the guys who really wanna show their passion and effort to impress say, a lady. If you have given up on efforts that appeal only to those that seem to be born with the inherent ability to cook.--RELAX. YOU CAN DO THIS ONE. You'll ace this recipe every time and look like a total stud doing it. I learned this basic sauce from Giada DeLaurentiis... and any cook knows that she's EASY. She's a three ingredient--salt-and-pepper-for-seasoning kinda girl.

Here are some of the basic tools you will need. If you dont have them... try alternatives. Let's face it... as grown ups, our kitchens should start expanding. A good mechanic always has the right tool for the right job. Same for crafting a meal. A good meal will get the girls, gentlemen. Invest if you don't have it.

Here's the big stuff:

-- A food processor (Invaluable-- fifty bucks. Will last 10 years.) If you don't have one today, a blender might work here... but it'll be a huge pain in the ass.

-- A "zester" grater (Cheap and a must for fresh parmasean / hard cheeses)

-- A chef's knife (a six to ten-inch blade. Non-serrated. Sharp. My buddy Pete bought me a bitchin' German knife that I use every day, every time I cook. Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef says you only need one knife, really. Mine is a Solingen--but Bourdain warns about overspending. I say, INVEST.

-- At least a 12-inch saucepan. I suggest non-stick. We went for "Calphelon." Search Ross or other bargain stores for cookwear. Thats where we get 100-dollar sauce pans for 39 bucks.

-- Cutting board. Anything will work, genius. Opt for bigger and not smaller.

OK... now for ingredients.

-- One butternut squash

-- One clove of garlic (Not a "bulb" of garlic, guys. Just the little "piece" of garlic that comes off).

-- Brick of parmesan cheese. Do NOT use that powdered shit. You might as well make macaroni and cheese and settle for a night of "Girls Gone Wild" commercials if you cant manage fresh grated parmesean.

-- Herbs. Surprise yourself. You can't go wrong with "whatever." I suggest fresh herbs. Oregano, parsley, basil, chives. Any or all. Think "Italian." Dried herbs are fine too... but not as pimp. Fresh, always.

-- Milk (a few cups, at least)

-- Olive oil

OK... now to prep and cook!

Ok. This is the hardest part. You have to cut up the butternut squash. Its like, part zucchini, part pumpkin. Its thick and its got a hollow center in it's lower or more "bulbous" (hehehehe) region. This step will probably take about 10-20 minutes. Take care here. The density of the squash will make cutting a challenge. I know... you know what youre doing. Just don't expect to get any from your date in the emergency room after youve passed out from blood-loss. I'm just sayin'.

Take your big-ass knife and cut it into about 1-inch cubes. You WILL have to have a spoon on hand to "scrape" the guts and seeds out of the center of the squash. You're going to have to cut the "rind" offa the squash. Cut into 1-inch cubes... and then carefully slice the lighter-colored "rind " off. The squash is tough. Don't cut yourself, fool!. Cut AWAY from yourself. Keep your fingers clear of the swath of the knife... lest you have the visit the "Marisa Lysinger" wing of your local emergency room. I'm just sayin.

Next, whilst you're getting your "samurai" on... dice up that clove of garlic. If you don't know how... first lay the clove down on the cutting board. Take the knife and with lay it down with the flat side on top of the garlic. One of your hands should be on the knife handle. The other hand should take one good strike on the flat of the knife blade. Pretend its that asshole "Bobby"at work that no one can stand. One good pop. Yeah, the garlic will be smushed but it doesn't matter. Dice it up small as you can get it. While you're at it... dice up your herbs. You really can't have too much. Start modest... and then add. Sauces are easy like that. Taste along the way. Stop when its perfect.

Now, we're going to start throwing things in our big, ol' saucepan. Turn on your stove-top to "medium" heat and throw a large drizzle of olive oil, your freshly chopped garlic and herbs in there. Stir for a little bit. Watch it, though... that garlic will turn brown quickly. Overly-sauteed garlic can become hateful little slivers in your meal. Two-four minutes is good, if you need a time frame.

Next, throw your cubes of squash in there. You want them to LIGHTLY carmelize (get that little brown crust). Add more olive oil if it all looks dry. Keep that pan lubed, brother! After five minutes, or so, of sauteeing it all, turn the temp on the stove down... to about "four-five." A more subtle heat will help "soften and mature" the tastes in the squash. Cook it for a while longer. Just watch it. If the edges get smushy... thats perfect. Don't char it. Carmelize and soften it.

Time for your food processor, or blender. This is where you're going to turn your sauteed ingredients into a "pudding" type of texture. Spoon your contents in there. Add some milk... say, a cup. You can't go wrong here. Process it and add as much milk as needed to turn it into that "pudding" consistancy. Try and get the lumps out. Once you're happy with the consistancy, pour and spoon the sauce back into your sautee or sauce pan.

Crack a beer, or mix a vodka / cran. You're home free now.

Keep that pan at a low temperature... a simmer. Taste it every once and a while and add what you like. As you cook it, the sace will thicken, and you'll have to add more milk.

Take that "zester" grater and start grating that parmesan cheese into the sauce. You can use as much as you like. Add a little more milk as you go.

Try some salt and pepper. The richness of the sauce will "goad" you into wanting to add too much salt. DON'T over-salt. Once you over-salt you can't go back. Try a VERY SMALL dash of curry. Curry is a mellow and rich spice that you can add to "mature" the flavor of your sauce, but will over-power it very quickly.

You're set, homie! The only way you can ruin it, at this point, is to add too much SALT, too much GARLIC--or to burn the crap out if it.

Serve with pasta. It's rich enough that you don't need to cook anything else crazy with it. I put it on top of homemade ravioli (a daunting task). Grate more parmesan over the top when serving. Maybe even throw a sprig of basil.. on there. Something green to contrast the "orange" color of the sauce. That would be super-pimp.

Sorry for the long read. This ended up more a "lesson" than a "recipe." Though, this is how I learn... I want to know why... I want to know the concepts. After that, the rest is cake.

Cheers! Let me know how it turned out!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Veggie Stroganoff

I quite often develop recipes based on what we have in the house at the time that I'm hungry and inspired to cook.

I've made a stroganoff from scratch before two or three times, and it's always been different. I've experimented with using red wine in the sauteing of the mushrooms, to mixed results.

Scott always prefers to be what he considers to be "authentic" and have the sauce over egg noodles.

Tonight I started off with what I had in the fridge and cupboard, and ended up making a store run for a tub of sour cream and some fresh mushrooms.

1 block neufchatel cheese
1 16 oz light sour cream
1 8oz can lo-fat mushroom soup
1 can (from the soup) lowfat milk

1 large white onion/yellow onion, diced
1/2 bag MSF burger crumbles
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

12 oz egg noodles

mrs dash garlic & herb

container button mushrooms, sliced
container shitake mushrooms, sliced

In a very large saucepan/saute pan on low, combine mushroom soup and milk, put package of neufchatel cheese in to melt. (I left for the store at this point, so I left it all on low for about a half hour and the cheese was nicely creamy by the time I got back. You can microwave it before adding it to the pan if you don't want to wait.)

Add the sour cream and turn heat up to 2 or 3 just until the mixture is easily combined and creamy. Add about a tablespoon of dried (or fresh if you have it) minced dill, turn heat back down to low.

In another saute pan on medium heat, add olive oil and diced onions. Once the onions start to sizzle a little, add the half bag of burger crumbles, drizzle a little balsamic over the top and stir. As soon as the crumbles are thawed and beginning to warm, add mushrooms, another drizzle of balsamic and a healthy sprinkle of Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb seasoning. Saute until the onions are soft and clear and the mushrooms are starting to juice.

Add mushroom mixture to the dairy mixture and bring back to heat at about 2 or 3. Salt to taste.

Boil your egg noodles according to the package directions, strain and EAT.

I am the happiest with this result of any of my stroganoff attempts. Then again, it's hard for me not to love anything with mushrooms and sour cream in it.