This summer, Chris and I were spending some time with friends at their cabin near Tawas (Michigan). One day, Becky and I were trying to use up groceries as we would be leaving the next day and didn’t want to leave a lot of food behind, especially food prone to spoilage in a bad, smelly sort of way.
So, Becky had this acorn squash which we just halved then microwaved before sprinkling with a little herb seasoning and slicing at the table. Chris had long thought he didn’t like squash. But he ate this side dish without much question. Later, he asked what it was and then said “I guess I don’t mind squash then.” Since then, I’ve been thinking about some squash-spotlighting dishes to make.
The fact that I like squash is a bit surprising and probably owes to my maturation as an eater. As a baby, I loved squash. And carrots. In fact, I ate so much squash and carrots, my skin took on a orange tinge and some credit my red hair to the beta-carotene (others blame the cat, an orange/white tabby who slept on my head when I was an infant). By middle-school, I was over squash. I didn’t want anything to do with that blob of orange-yellow goop that usually only showed up around the holidays. I don’t really remember when I realized that I did, in fact, like the taste of squash but maybe sometime in college.
My preference is for firm squash without an overload of cinnamon, maple syrup, butter etc. When I want mashed or pureed veggies, its either potatoes or sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes cooked in heavy cream then mashed are amAzing if horribly high in fat.
On many occasions, I have seen recipes for squash or pumpkin or sweet potato risotto and mentally filed that concept as “one to try.” Tonight, I tried it.
Using a recipe from Simply Recipes as a jumping off point, came up with a home run. Or that’s what Chris said anyhow. For the chicken, I had some thin-cut boneless skinless breasts to use up.
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 sweet dumpling, acorn or similar sized winter squash
1/2 cup white wine (I used Barefoot Chardonnay and highly recommend it)
3 cups chicken broth, warmed (veggie broth works too)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese or similar
To prepare squash:
- Slice squash in half with a heavy knife (carefully), scoop out seeds then microwave 2-3 minutes on high.
- Remove squash and when able to handle, cut flesh from skin. I cut the squash in pieces and used a vegetable peeler to get most of the skin off. I found this worked better with less waste than cutting the flesh out with a knife.
- Chop squash in to 1 inch dice
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat in a large, shallow pan. Add garlic, onions and squash. Season pan with salt. Cook 5 minutes or so, until onions are translucent but not browning.
- Add rice to pan, stir to mix and cook another 1-2 minutes.
- Pour wine in to pan and keep stirring until wine is absorbed.
- Keep stirring and add some (about 1/4-1/2 cup) of the chicken broth, just enough to cover the rice.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 teaspoons rubbed sage (dried) to the rice.
- Keep stirring and repeat adding broth as the previous is absorbed. This process will take about 30 minutes.
- When all the broth has been absorbed by the rice, stir in the cheese and one tablespoon of butter.
The risotto should be creamy and the squash will still have some firmness but not be crunchy.
Pan-friend Chicken with Mustard-Wine Sauce
This was pretty much all on the fly and measurements are best guesstimates.
2 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts (from Miller Amish Farms, of course)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (optionally pre-seasoned with Italian Seasonings)
1 teaspoon sage
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup white wine (any white, I used the Chardonnay from above)
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 tablespoon butter
butter or oil for saute
- Combine bread crumbs, sage and cheese in a ziploc bag.
- Heat saute pan over medium heat, add butter or oil (your choice). When ready, drop one chicken breast in the ziploc bag, close it up and shake it around. Remove from bag and add to pan. Repeat with second breast.
- Cook approximately 5 minutes until coating is a light golden brown. Flip and finish chicken, another 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.
- Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm.
- Add wine to pan and scrape any browned bits up.
- Add mustard and bring to a boil before stirring in butter. After butter is incorporated, reduce heat to medium-low until desired consistency is reached.
Notes: Risotto serves 4-6 but the chicken was a meal for just two.
The coating for the chicken would have done better with something to stick to, like a quick egg dip or even milk. Alas, we had neither on hand tonight. After I put the meat in the pan, I pressed a little of the breadcrumbs and cheese in to the upside. Anything that fell off became part of the sauce.
To plate, spread a little mustard sauce on one side then top with the chicken before adding more sauce. Garnished with oregano that is somehow still alive on our balcony.
We enjoyed our fine meal with a glass of Tiz Red, from California’s Tiz Winery. This wine is a blended red that pretty much goes with anything. Affordable too, we’ll buy it again.
The comments from Chris: Home run on the risotto, “you should make this for Thanksgiving”, chicken was B+ mostly because he wanted more sauce which is easily do-able.
The Thanksgiving idea is interesting but I’m leaning towards this instead.