Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Delicata Squash Sformato

We may have just finished up the season of celebrating, but I still have to share my favorite new dish I cooked during the holiday season. Until I made this recipe, I'd been mostly trudging through my ample squash supply, roasting, pureeing, and freezing like some sort of gourd-processing robot. This recipe, however, got me excited about squash puree again. I was a little hesitant to serve this recipe at Christmas without first vetting it myself, but it turned to out to a be a real highlight of the meal. The squash itself was smooth and silky, with the cheese, sour cream, and egg enriching it enough to make it more than just plain ol' squash puree. The use of sweet (nutmeg) and savory (thyme, salt, and pepper) seasonings exploit squash's ability the play well in both sweet and savory applications. Maple syrup blends beautifully with the squash's inherent sweetness, but it is cut through perfectly with the acidic accent from the balsamic vinegar. I was honestly surprised at how much I loved this recipe and was unable to disguise my delight as I enjoyed my first few tastes. It's only fitting to start off a new year with one of my favorite bites of the past one to send you off on new culinary adventures in 2013. In the words of Jacques Pepin, happy cooking!

Delicata Squash Sformato
serves 4

1 large delicata squash (about 3 pounds)
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Jack cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and pierce a few holes in the skin. Place the squash cut side down in a glass baking dish and roast in the oven until soft, 40 to 45 minutes. The timing may vary, so keep an eye on it. You want a few brown blisters and to be able to pierce it easily with a fork. Set aside and let cool.

3. Put the crème fraîche, Jack cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine.

4. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh away from the skin and put it in a bowl. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and mash the squash until smooth. Add the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the egg and nutmeg, giving the mixture a final stir.

5. Grease an 8 by 8-inch baking dish on all sides and pour in the squash mixture. Turn the oven down to 375°F and bake until brown spots start to show on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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