This is the annual post where I talk about how much I don’t like squash or root vegetables and then incorporate it into a recipe (the eve of the fall equinox seemed appropriate). You know, just like I did with these carrot cupakes , pumpkin oatmeal cookies, pumpkin blondies, and zucchini brownies.
I’m nothing if not consistent.
This year I’ve chosen butternut squash as my quarry. To be fair, I actually like butternut squash. Especially in savory dishes like lasagna and ravioli.
I should have a good story about adding in the chai, but I don’t. It just seemed like a complimentary set of flavors.
Somewhere I read that if you put uncooked rice in the bottom of your muffin cups it will absorb some of the grease that appears on the papers. It wasn’t life changing, but it did work pretty well.
I was cruising the bulk aisle in our local Sprouts, spied some roasted, salted pepitas and thought it would be fun to sprinkle some on top. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that putting pumpkin seeds on top of butternut squash muffins might be construed as false advertising.
You know, it’s all gourd with me.
TD said these were like “fall in his mouth.” Of course this was then followed by an un-printable list of other things he said he’d like to put in his mouth and book ended with “if you know what I mean.” Yes, I’m married to a 12 year old. But, you knew that already.
Happy autumnal equinox!
Chai Butternut Squash Muffins
adapted from Food and Wine
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon crushed chai tea (from 3 bags)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 C sugar
- 1C butternut squash puree (make your own or buy it canned)
- 1 1/3 C all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Roasted and salted pepitas or nuts of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 350°, line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the chai tea.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, butternut squash puree and chai butter until smooth. Whisk in the flour, baking soda and salt until incorporated.
- Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and top with the pepitas.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely before serving.
Inspiration for this recipe came on what turned out to be the only coolish October day we had in Los Angeles this year. I was day dreaming about a particular butternut squash lasagna that we never seem to get around to making (probably because it feeds about 20 while exactly 2 people live in our house).
One thing lead to another which had me thinking about taking advantage of the unique shape of the butternut squash; specifically the long, solid neck. It seemed to me that thinly sliced and arranged, butternut squash, with its quintessentially autumnal flavor, could be an attractive Thanksgiving side dish.
So I experimented. One evening. Which hopefully explains the awful lighting in these photographs.
And, while the aesthetic didn’t come out quite as planned (I had hoped the cheese and bechamel sauce would sink into the dish once again revealing the rosette…alas, not so much), it tasted fantastic. Topped with a sort of streusel of hazelnuts, bread crumbs and nutmeg, this rich side dish would pair delightfully with roasted turkey or other light meat (we ate it will grilled pork chops…also delightful).
Of course you could make this like a more traditional scalloped dish, by layering the squash horizontally in between layers of sauce and cheese. By, why be normal?
Scalloped Butternut Squash(es)
The recipe below is based on arranging everything into a nine-inch quiche dish. Go ahead and 1.5X or 2X if using a regular 9X13 casserole dish.
- 1.5 lb butternut squash (find one with a nice long neck…it’ll make your peeling and slicing job easier)
- 1 ounce of roasted hazelnuts, skins removed
- 1 piece day-old bread made into crumbs (or 1/4 C of pre-made bread crumbs)
- 2 TBS shredded parmesan romano cheese (use the good stuff)
- 1/2-1 tsp ground nutmeg (or use fresh and microplane)
- 1 tsp either dried sage or italian seasoning
- 2 C whole milk
- 5 TBS butter
- 4 TBS flour
- 4 ounces shredded gruyere cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place half-sheet into oven.
- Butter a 9-inch quiche dish
- Peel butternut squash (I prefer to use a pairing knife). Cut the squash in two just above the bulb. Halve both the bulb and the neck longwise.
- Slice each half into very thin half-moons. I used a mandolin for this but you could also slice by hand. Set aside.
- Chop hazelnuts. In a small bowl, combine hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and sage (or italian seasoning). Combine gently with fingers.
- Warm the milk in a small sauce pan. Don’t let it boil.
- In a heavy-bottomed medium sauce-pan, melt the butter.
- Add in the flour and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes (until the flour no longer smells raw).
- Pour the milk into the flour mixture in a stream whisking the entire time. The mixture will attempt to seize up during the first cup and then begin to loosen as the second cup is added.
- Bring sauce to a simmer, whisking and allow to thicken (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now you are ready to assemble.
- Cover bottom of quiche dish with sauce (about 1/2 C) followed by a thin layer of cheese (1/3 of the cheese)
- Starting at the outside, arrange butternut squash slices dome-side up overlapping. You may want to start with the larger, hollow slices from the dome. Continue overlapping the pieces as you work your way toward the center.
- Carefully pour the remaining sauce over the top of the butternut squash. Be sure to distribute it evenly so that it gets in all the nooks and crannies.
- Top with remaining cheese and hazelnut mixture.
- Pull heated half-sheet from oven, place quiche pan in the half-sheet, cover with foil and reinsert everything into the oven.
- Let bake with foil on for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and bake from 30 more minutes until the top of the dish is golden brown and sauce is bubbling.
- Allow dish to sit for 15 minutes before serving (to allow the sauce to thicken).