Friday, October 31, 2008

Less Meat: It's What's for Dinner

I was recently flipping through Ten Speed Press's spring 2009 catalog. The California publisher has become one of my favorite houses, and not just because it's the home of 101 Cookbooks blogger Heidi Swanson. Ten Speed's books are beautiful, useful and smart. I paused at the page for a book called Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health, Better for the Planet. One of the authors, Tara Mataraza Desmond, is a Philadelphia food blogger who'd just run the Chicago Marathon in approximately the same time I hope to run New York on Sunday--and she loves kettle corn. So do I. I was intrigued.

Her blog led me to a recipe Desmond's coauthor, Joy Manning, recently posted on Serious Eats: Butternut Squash and Sausage Bake. I had some chicken sausage in the fridge, and would only need to buy squash and smoked mozzarella to make the dish. I will say, this isn't the quickest dish you'll make all fall, but it's one of the most satisfying and delicious. Cubes of butternut squash, bits of sausage, softened onions scented with sage and thyme, just enough smoky mozzarella, plus crunchy, buttery breadcrumbs on top. We ate this for dinner with a salad and some bread, and had enough leftover for a few lunches. I wholeheartedly recommend you add this to your fall recipe rotation.

Sure, the dish wouldn't have suffered if I'd included more sausage. But it didn't really need it; there were such great flavors from the other ingredients. I'd never become a vegetarian, but I'm happy to go meat lite.--S

Butternut Squash and Sausage Bake

Serves six to eight

1/4 lb Italian sausage
1/4 c olive oil, divided
3 onions, quartered and sliced
5 thyme sprigs
2 t dried sage
salt and pepper
1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 cubes, (about 6 c) seeds and scrapings reserved
1/4 c flour
1/2 c shredded smoked mozzarella
3/4 c chicken stock
3 slices white sandwich bread, cut into cubes [I used sourdough baguette]
2 T melted butter, optional, plus a little extra to prepare baking dish

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9"-x-12" baking dish.
2. Remove sausage from its casing and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until just browning, breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon as it cooks. [I used chicken sausage, so I simply sliced it, then halved each slice.] Remove cooked sausage and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Add enough olive oil to the rendered fat in the skillet to equal 2T, and then add the onions, thyme and sage. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom of the skillet to loosen brown bits. When onions are thoroughly soft, remove and set aside.
4. While the onions cook, simmer the squash seeds and scrapings in the chicken stock for 10 minutes, strain and keep the stock warm over low heat.
5. Add the remaining 2T of olive oil to the skillet. Toss the squash with the flour and arrange in a single layer in the skillet. (If the skillet isn’t big enough, you’ll need to do this in two batches.) Let the squash brown, undisturbed, for 4 minutes then stir the squash as it cooks for the next 4 minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper and set aside.
6. To assemble the casserole, layer the onions in the buttered baking dish. Dot the onions with the sausage bits evenly, and then top with the squash. Sprinkle the smoked mozzarella over the top, and the pour the stock into the baking dish. Press the top of the casserole with a spatula to evenly distribute the liquid. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7. While the casserole bakes, pulse the bread crumbs with the melted butter (if using) in a food processor until you have coarse bread crumbs.
8. After 30 minutes, pull the baking dish out of the oven, remove the foil, top casserole evenly with breadcrumbs and bake uncovered an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the top is nicely browned.

Recipe courtesy of Serious Eats


Tara Mataraza Desmond said...

Hey Spoon and Fork, thanks for the Almost Meatless shout out and for checking out our Meat Lite column on Serious Eats! How did the NYC Marathon go? Looks like you had a beautiful day for it!

Lynn said...

Thank YOU! It's a great recipe. I credit it with helping me run a personal best (3:58) in NYC last Sunday.