Cutting up a hard winter squash like butternut can be a rather cumbersome chore.
But leave it to esteemed New York Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to devise a dish that does away with that unwieldy step.
Vongerichten’s “Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs” is made by cooking a whole butternut squash in a big pot of boiling water until tender, about 45 minutes.
In this recipe from his newest cookbook, “Home Cooking with Jean-Georges” (Clarkson Potter), of which I recently received a review copy, he jokes that he came up with this surefire method one night when he was cooking at home, but wanted to watch a movie with his kids uninterrupted.
After all, Vongerichten’s flagship Jean Georges restaurant may be only one of six in the country to garner three Michelin stars, but this is also a chef who likes to cook and entertain at home. The book includes 100 recipes of family favorites that he likes to make at his country home in Waccabuc, New York. Think everything from “Portobello Parmesan Sandwiches with Rosemary Mayonnaise” to “Pork Chops with Cherry Mustard” to “Apricot Frangipane Tart.”
His take on butternut squash is perfect for the Thanksgiving table. After draining the squash and allowing it to cool enough to be handled, you mash the flesh, then drizzle on balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Next, you top the mash with the seeds of the squash that you’ve sauteed until golden brown, as well as a shower of crisp panko bread crumbs, crushed chile flakes, thyme leaves and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The balsamic vinegar really makes this dish. It heightens the sweetness of the squash, but also gives it much more depth with its slight wine-y tang. In fact, from now on, I might just add a drizzle to butternut squash soup to make it even more interesting.
Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs
(Serves 8 )
1 large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Regginao cheese
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add whole squash and cook, partially covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. (A knife will pierce the flesh very easily.) Drain, cool slightly, then remove and discard the stem and peel. Reserve seeds, removing and discarding the strings.
Transfer flesh to a large serving dish and mash with a fork into an even layer. Drizzle the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of oil over the squash, and season with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the squash seeds in a large skillet over medium-low heat until dry. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and toast, tossing occasionally. When the seeds begin to pop, partially cover the pan. Continue toasting until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
In the same skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, then toss in crumbs. When well coated, stir in thyme, chile, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, and toasted seeds. Spread the crumb mixture over the squash in an even layer and serve immediately.
From “Home Cooking with Jean-Georges” by Jean Georges Vongerichten with Genevieve Ko
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