Sunday, October 30, 2011

roasted butternut squash poblano soup

Fall for sure, so orange-fleshed squashes. This was the way to ring it all in. Everybody was impressed, so I guess I need to get this one down before I forget it.

1 butternut squash
2-3 small poblano peppers
2 small onions
1 shallot
2 carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
6c chicken stock
~1c sherry or marsala
heavy cream
fresh sage leaves

Preheat oven to 375. Peel, half, and seed the squash and cut to roughly 1" cubes. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread it evenly on one or two sheet pans. Roast till you can easily cut it with a fork, about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, roast the poblanos over a stove burner until the skin is black and blistering (or else rub them with oil and roast in the oven along with the squash until the skin is blistering). Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let it finish the job. When you're partway through doing some of the other stuff below, skin and seed the peppers and chop to roughly 1/2".

Dice the onions and shallot and carrot and celery fairly small. In a heavy pan, get some oil going over medium heat and start with the onions, then the shallots, then the carrot and celery, seasoning as you go. Deglaze with a goodly amount of sherry or marsala, and cook this all down for long enough to let the alcohol burn off. Add the squash, peppers, and stock and bring to a gentle boil. 

Simmer till the carrots are pliable, then use an immersion blender to make it all pretty smooth. Check seasonings, which will probably be fucked by all the new vegetable matter and sugar freed in the last few steps. Add a cup or so of buttermilk, and a glug or so of cream. Chop several tablespoons of sage fairly fine and add to the soup. Wait a few minutes and check seasonings again. 

For a garnish/finish I reduced some port and cream together and made pretty patterns on top, but I have since have thought of a few different ways to go in a fantasy cooking world, many of which I probably couldn't even execute: a salty walnut maple brittle, or diced apple sauteed with smoked bacon, or nuts and apples together in baconfat, or maybe even mushroom something or other, or something using the squash seeds to be all snout-to-tail about it. Smoky, tart, savory, leafy, nutty, forest-floory is the palette I'm thinking of. Lightly salted port cream actually worked pretty well for that, after all. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

ten-minute marinara

Just as Master J's Bari-bought pumpkin gnocchi went into the water tonight, I realized we only had puttanesca, which would be revolting, so I had to scramble. Ten minutes later we had this. Surprisingly good for something pulled out of thin air.

Having generally relied on restaurants or jars for my red sauce needs, I know nothing about the real way to make Italian sauces. But I'd always been under the impression it was supposed to involve at least one person who had little choice in the matter, due to gender, state of imprisonment, or physical handicap, sitting there stirring all day long. But perhaps Scorsese movies provide an incomplete view of Italian cuisine. Since it relies on new world fruits and Portuguese wine and was prepared by an Irish, I have no cause to act like this sauce is remotely Italian anyway. It's just a nice and quick and red sauce that pleases somewhat finicky children and their parents too.

(makes about a quart)
a small onion, finely diced
some garlic, coarsely chopped
two 14 oz cans of some kind of tomatoes, plain as can be
madeira wine
olive oil
red pepper flakes
dried oregano

In something powerful, puree the tomatoes along with another half cup or so of water. Heat several tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and cook until clear, then throw in the garlic, salting and peppering as you go. When you can smell the garlic, add some pepper flakes and oregano, whatever seems right to you. I went lighter on both in deference to the toddlish palate. Once the oregano is pungent after about a minute, half a cup or so of madeira or port or another wine along those lines. (Don't worry, you're going to cook off the alcohol, but I suppose this ingredient could be optional.) Reduce by half, then add the tomato puree. Keep it moving. Season it. Cook it down for a few minutes, things brighten up, and Bob's your uncle.