WOW your guests at Thanksgiving (or anytime) with this impressive Hasselback Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves side dish. The perfectly thin, uniform slices make any dish a showstopper. As the squash bakes, the slices fan out slightly for a crowd-pleasing presentation. Once cooked, the preparation is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Need I say more?
The bay leaves tucked between some of the slices will perfume the vegetable as it cooks. While the squash spends its first round in the oven, you’ll prepare the glaze until it looks like rich caramel and then use it to baste with every 10 minutes or so while the squash finishes roasting to an almost shellacked-looking exterior.
When making the thin slices, put a thin dowel or chopstick on either side of the squash so that you don’t accidentally cut all the way through. If you’re interested in creating a similar effect with spuds, check out my blog from a couple of years ago on the impressive Hasselback Yukon Gold Potato.
A trick I use to aid in cutting the squash is to first score it in half with a fork along the length on both sides, then slice through the bottom seed end. Finally cut through the stem end which is a bit more difficult. And I have to admit, peeling a squash is sooo not my thing, so I enticed the Mr., who is stronger than me, to do the deed.
After scooping out the seeds, peel away the skin and pith.
A word to the wise about the Fresno pepper. You know I gravitate toward all things spicy, but I only left the slices in the glaze about 1 minute at the most, in Step 3. It was one hot chile pepper! They add a nice pop of color used as garnish at the end. Guests can always remove them if they don’t want any more heat. Me? I ate mine 😉
Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a large spoon. Using a peeler, remove skin and white flesh below (you should reach the deep orange flesh). Rub all over with oil; season with salt and pepper.
Roast in a baking dish just large enough to hold halves side by side until beginning to soften (a paring knife should easily slip in only about ¼”), 15–18 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring chile, maple syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally and removing chile as soon as desired heat level is reached (set chiles aside for serving), until just thick enough to coat spoon, 6–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and keep glaze warm.
Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score rounded sides of squash halves crosswise, going as deep as possible but without cutting all the way through.
Return squash to baking dish, scored sides up, and tuck bay leaves between a few of the slices; season with salt and pepper.
Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes or so and using pastry brush to lift off any glaze in dish that is browning too much, until tender and glaze forms a rich brown coating, 45–60 minutes.
Serve topped with reserved chiles.
A serving size is about 5-6 slices.
Do Ahead: Squash can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Let cool until just warm; cover and store at room temperature. Reheat before serving.
We paired our Hasselback squash with juicy, pan-grilled T-bone steaks seared to a perfect medium-rare, and grilled asparagus spears. Then for even more goodness, we smothered them in sautéed mushrooms and shallots. OMG, what a meal!
Hasselback squash recipe by Ann Redding & Matt Danzer from Bon Appétit
*****************************************Posted December 3, 2016
Bold and Sassy Chicken Thighs
While you can control the intensity of the spice in Broiled Chicken Thighs with Chipotle Sauce, it is not a dish for the meek palette. Roasted red peppers and spicy, smoky ground chipotle chiles make this sauce a knockout. A fan of saucy, rather than dry dishes, I doubled all of the ingredients except the chicken and the olive oil in the sauce. In fact, I quadrupled the amount of garlic and chipotle chili!Knowing our gas oven broiler is not the strongest, I opted to sear the thighs in a little olive oil over a medium-high burner on the stove top for several minutes on each side until browned. I then put all of them on a foil lined baking sheet in a 4oo degree oven for another 15 minutes. So now you have two choices: broil as indicated in the directions below, or sear and bake as mentioned above.
1 large or 2 small jarred roasted red peppers, drained
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
I prefer to mash garlic and salt in a small mortar as opposed to using the side of a chef’s knife.
Chicken thighs get happy in the seasoning mixture.
The chipotle and red pepper sauce after it is puréed in a mini-blender.
The chicken was seared on both sides for a few minutes before going into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
A cooked thigh lies on top of a schmear of the chipotle sauce and is garnished with fresh cilantro.
Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp. of the cumin, the sugar, 1/4 tsp. of the chipotle, the cinnamon, and 1 tsp. salt. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 Tbs. of the oil, and then toss with the spice mixture.
Arrange the chicken on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and broil until the chicken browns lightly on top, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to broil until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the garlic and sprinkle it with 1/4 tsp. salt. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, smear and mash the garlic and salt together to form a coarse paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a food processor and add the roasted red pepper, the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, the remaining 1/2 tsp. each of cumin and chipotle, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Purée into a smooth sauce.
Garnish the chicken with the cilantro and serve with the sauce.
Serve with roasted potatoes, egg noodles, or polenta.
****************************************Posted April 22, 2015
Bison Burger Blast-off!
Inspired by our Bison Burger at the Food Truck Fiesta recently, and with the Spring weather finally warming up, we couldn’t think of a better way to take our grill on it’s seasonal maiden voyage than to toss a few bison burgers onto the ol’ barby. With a strong prevailing perception that it is healthier, bison’s popularity is exploding. There are plenty of lean cuts of bison all of which are low in calories and have just a gram or two more saturated fat than roasted skinless chicken breast or grilled salmon. Without a high fat content, the meat will get tough if you cook it past medium, so keep a close eye on it, since bison’s lower fat content means that it will cook faster as well. Which is precisely what Russ did—the burgers ended up more well done than our medium-rare preference. He even over-toasted the onion rolls… I guess even a seasoned grill master can get a little rusty over the course of a long Winter… Precooked, cajun-spiced bison patties Carmelizing onions for a burger topperThe nutrient content of this once wild game animal is very similar to ground turkey. Be aware, it has a higher sticker price because there is less of it, and cost more to produce. If you are a meat eater, or love red meat and perhaps have stopped because your doctor told you to give it up, you might want to consider bison (or buffalo) meat as your once a month treat.
It is tastier than beef and richer in flavor.
It is simply healthier than regular cow beef. It is lower in saturated fat than regular cow beef.
Bison is a great source of nutrients, it has the basics: zinc, niacin, iron, vitamin B6 and selenium.
Anywho, we thoroughly enjoyed ours (cajun-seasoned of course) despite being too well done, topping them with a slice of Buffalo Wing NY Chipotle Cheddar Cheese, caramelized onions, a slice of tomato and lettuce greens. And what’s a burger without fries? How about a healthier take with the Alexis Chipotle Spicy Sweet Potato Oven Fries.
***************************************Posted February 2, 2015
Finger-Lickin’ Good! Asian Barbecue Chicken Wings
Even if it’s not a game day, you’ve still got game in the kitchen when you make this finger-licking, umami-laden take on chicken wings. The recipe calls for slow cooking the wings until the meat is almost falling-off-the-bone tender, then broiling to make them brown, crisp, and irresistible. It’s supposed to be one extra step that’s well worth it, but ours didn’t end up all that crispy. My preference is for very crispy wings, which I think you can only get when you fry them—not necessarily a healthy choice. If I can figure out a way to keep this wonderful flavor, but crisp up the chicken pieces even more (without deep frying), we’d have a winner!I’m afraid if you broil the wings too much longer than called for, they would only blacken and char—not a good end result. It was Superbowl Sunday when we made this appetizer. So earlier in the day, we threw everything in the slow cooker, turned on low, and left to go see a movie. When we got back several hours later, the house smelled wonderful! The directions call for boiling the defatted sauce for 15 minutes to reduce by half. We found it took about 3 minutes longer to produce the proper consistency. Finishing four hours in the crock pot. Boiling the sauce to reduce by half. Brushing second side with sauce to pop back under the broiler.
Shortly into the first quarter, the wings were ready for a first pass. Neither one of us were too excited about the game because of the two opposing teams. But push come to shove, we didn’t want the Patriots to win (sorry New Englanders), which made us root for the Seahawks by default. But what a game it ended being!! Despite our earlier lack of interest, we found ourselves glued to the TV. And what an unexpected ending… probably a decision that will haunt the Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for the rest of his days…
Well, at least our wings were a winner, if not the crispest!
4-1/2 lb. chicken wing drumettes, winglets, or both
8 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup hoisin sauce
3 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
1-1/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1-1/2 Tbs. sambal oelek
2-1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
Asian chile oil (optional)
Served with celery and carrot sticks, and chunky blue cheese dressing.
In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir the chicken wings, all but 2 Tbs. of the scallions, the hoisin sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and sambal oelek until the wings are evenly coated. Cover and cook until the wings are cooked through, but not falling off the bone, 2-1/2 hours on high or 4 hours on low. (The wings can stay on the keep-warm setting for up to 1 hour.)
Use tongs to transfer the chicken wings to a large foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Strain the sauce into a fat separator and set aside for a few minutes.
Pour the defatted sauce into a 2-quart saucepan, add the vinegar, and boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
Position a rack 4 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Brush the wings with the sauce and broil until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the wings over, brush them again, and broil until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes more.
Brush with the sauce once more before serving, topped with the remaining 2 Tbs. scallions and drizzled with the chile oil, if using. (We did’t have this ingredient, so obviously we omitted it.) Serve any remaining sauce on the side for dipping.
-by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbroughfrom Fine Cooking-
**************************************Posted May 13, 2014:
by Anya von Bremzen
Recipe from The New Spanish TableEnjoyed at bars all over Spain, this tapa is often singled out as an exemplary fusion dish: a Moorish marinade applied to pork, the quintessentially Spanish meat. The kebabs are wonderful and taste equally good made with pork, lamb, or chicken. Feel free to thread cherry tomatoes, chunks of red bell pepper, or pieces of fruit, such as honeydew melon or green grapes onto the skewers too.We paired our kebabs with orzo seasoned with chopped fresh chives and flat-leaf parsley and a really good olive oil. A favorite go-to side dish, our vegetable accompaniment was a mix of cut-up fresh vegetables including red, yellow and orange bell peppers, button mushrooms, red onion, and yellow summer squash which had been marinating in olive oil, roasted garlic, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. After marinating in a ziploc bag for a couple of hours, throw them into a heated grilling basket, turning often until done, about 20-25 minutes.Ingredients:
• 2 Tbsp chopped onion
• 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 Tbsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
• 1/2 tsp smoked hot Spanish paprika, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
• Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 2 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 bay leaf, crumbled
• 2 Tbsp best-quality white wine vinegarDirections:
1. Place the onion, garlic, sweet and hot paprikas, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the oregano, peppercorns, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaf, vinegar, wine (if using) and olive oil in a mini food processor and process to a paste.
2. Place the pork in a bowl and rub a little salt on it. Scrape the marinade into the bowl with the meat and toss to combine thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the pork for 4 to 6 hours, tossing a few times. Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling.
3. Soak 16 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Light the grill and preheat it to medium-high or preheat a large ridged grill pan to medium-high over medium heat.
4. When ready to cook, thread the meat onto the skewers and brush it with a little olive oil. Cook the meat, brushing with olive oil and turning once, until it is just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. (If you are cooking lamb, and would like it medium-rare, don’t cook it quite so long.) Serve the kebabs at once. Serves 8 as a tapa, 4 as a light main course.
As promised, here is the recipe for Thai Beef Stew with Lemongrassand Noodles found in the February 2014 issue of Bon Appétit. In this soul-satisfying dish, delicate rice noodles are combined with gingery spiced beef. And it was really, really good!
We had planned this meal about a week in advance but I didn’t look at the recipe details until I was heading out the door for work the morning of our intended meal. And to my horror, I noted that it was about 4 hours total cooking plus prep time — which means we would’ve been eating dinner that day around 11:00 — which even for us, is way too late! I figured I’d make it anyway for the following evening, and we could just roll with the punches and heat some leftovers, which is precisely what we did. In most instances when cooking a tough piece of meat such as beef chuck, the cooking time is a longer process. Seems we both forgot that little nugget of info in this case…
When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks (not soft or rubbery, which means it’s too old). Lower stalk should be pale yellow (almost white) in color, while upper stalks are green (do not purchase if outer leaves are crusty or brown). Usually fresh lemongrass is sold in groupings of 3-4 stalks, secured with an elastic band. Stalks are approximately 1 foot long (or more). If you can’t find it with the fresh produce, check the freezer section – lemongrass stalks are also sold in frozen packets. I have also found it in tubes, as a paste, by the packaged fresh herbs. But if at all possible, fresh is best.
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 medium shallots, quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 2” lengths, halved if large
4 scallions, cut into 1” lengths, plus more for serving
8 oz. wide rice noodles
Lime wedges (for serving)
Lemongrass is a stalky plant with a lemony scent that grows in many tropical climates, most notably in Southeast-Asia. A common ingredient in Thai cooking, lemongrass provides a zesty lemon flavor and aroma to many Thai dishes. Lemon juice (or lime) may be substituted for lemongrass in a pinch, but citrus fruits will not be able to fully replicate its particular qualities.
Process lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, and 2 chiles in a food processor until a fine paste forms.
Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook beef, turning occasionally, until browned, 10–15 minutes; transfer to a plate.
Cook lemongrass paste in same pot, stirring often, until lemongrass is beginning to soften, 5–8 minutes. Add star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, beef with any juices, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, skimming occasionally, until beef is tender and liquid is slightly thickened, 2½–3 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Toast coconut flakes on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden around the edges, about 4 minutes; set aside. (We omitted this step.)
Add shallots and carrots to stew and cook, partially covered, until vegetables are soft and beef is falling apart, 35–45 minutes. Mix in scallions (they should wilt slightly).
Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
Divide noodles among bowls and ladle stew over; top with toasted coconut and more scallions. Serve with lime wedges.
DO AHEAD: Stew (without noodles) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.
Recipe by Alison Roman.OUR TWIST: Since neither of us like coconut (but strangely we both like coconut milk), we omitted this step. Plus, I only had two shallots on hand when making this recipe so I substituted a sweet vidalia onion in place of the two remaining shallots. Toward the end of the cooking time, we both felt that the broth was too thin and watery and we wanted to thicken it somewhat. Enter the fact that we both like coconut milk — so I made a slurry of the milk and cornstarch and added it to the simmering stew until it was the consistency we wanted.
Take It Up a Notch
Posted February 9, 2014:
As reported on NBCNews Health in August 2013, a new study presented recently at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting suggests there’s a correlation between preferences for spicy food and risk-taking personalities. (hmmmm, should I be worried here?)
I don’t think we can say that spicy food lovers are always risk takers, since there are always exceptions to the rules. However, it wouldn’t be totally off base to guess that someone who enjoys spicy foods would also be someone who would be inclined to enjoy taking certain risks, like riding roller coasters.”
Another article reported Pennsylvania State University’s research examined the link between peoples’ personality types and whether they were fans of food packed full of hot spices such as chilli. It found that people who seek adventure and intense sensations like spicy food more than those who avoid risky situations.
While I admit, I use to love roller coasters, whitewater rafting, riding in glass elevators, and racing around on motorcycles (back then with out helmets!), seeking those adventures have lost some of their appeal over the years. And I wasn’t brought up with a lot of spicy food either. In fact, most meals my mom made were lightly seasoned and not at all zesty. But as a child I often gravitated toward hot spicy candies like Red Hots, Hot Tamales, Brach’s Cinnamon Hard Candy, and Dentyne Fire Gum.
Only food prudes are afraid to dabble with a little hot sauce occasionally. And for me, I suppose it wasn’t until I left for college and became exposed to a more exotic palette of food at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor that I actually made a conscious effort to seek out zingy food such as Mexican and Indian cuisines. And thus began my life-long passion for hot peppers.
To this day when dining out, I will scan the menu and zero in on the spicy offerings first. And usually without fail, I ask the waiter to up the heat quotient a notch or two–and that’s without even tasting anything beforehand. I believe only once, many years ago, did I go overboard and asked that my entree at an Indian restaurant be “Indian Hot Hot.” Lesson learned…
Another time I was preparing a spicy rice dish for a party I was hosting. The recipe called for one or two hot peppers and I bought a package of eight simply labeled “hot peppers,” when in reality they were scotch bonnet peppers–considered the hottest in the world at the time–and I used all eight in the dish! I only realized my mistake after taste-testing halfway through the preparation, at which time I eradicated all of the peppers from the rice. Suffice it to say, very few people were able to tolerate that dish–but I rather enjoyed it. My mom was in visiting from Michigan at the time and she got a real chuckle out of my mistake–but she took my word for it and wasn’t about to sample it for herself. I guess this is one of those instances that you can file under “disasters.”
And what about their medicinal purposes? According to John Roach for National Geographic News, people who live in warm climates are attracted to spicy foods because the red-hot seasonings keep people healthy. The research shows that people in warmer regions of the world benefit from eating spicier foods, because spices are natural antimicrobials. Food-borne pathogens and parasites are more prolific in warmer climates, and spices can kill or inhibit their growth. (Yeah, but I grew up in Michigan, remember?)
A recent article in the Washington Post laid out the five influences on how people taste food.
1. Genetics: People experience bitter flavors differently, as the combination of bitter receptor genes varies for each person. And almost everyone lacks the ability to detect at least one scent, meaning that the chemical that gives truffles their distinctive odor might strike you as either offensive or earthy. Or you might be among the 25% who can’t smell it at all. (Maybe that’s why I don’t understand the use of bay leaves in a recipe, I can never detect their flavor.)
2. Experience: Did you know babies are predisposed to liking the foods their mothers ate while they were pregnant and later while breastfeeding? (Hmmmm, still doesn’t explain why I like spicy food and my mom can’t tolerate it!)
3. Culture: Not many people like extremely bitter or spicy foods the first time tasting them, but they can come to tolerate and even crave them with repeated exposure and by being around people who enjoy these foods. (So stick with me pal, I can get you to like real spicy food in no time!)
4. Gender: Women are more likely to crave sweets and men are more likely to crave salty foods. This should come as no surprise if you’ve ever seen an advertisement for chocolate. (Does this mean I am in touch with my masculine side??)
5. Texture: Although science cannot yet fully explain why, some people simply hate gritty, slimy or creamy foods, no matter their flavor. (And this explains why I don’t like foods with the slimy “yaya” texture such as squid, escargot, octopus, mussels…)
Typical extreme hot sauces, favorites of benign masochists everywhere, run up into the hundreds of thousands of Scoville heat units—that bottle of Tabasco in your kitchen is only 5000, tops.
Post from February 7, 2014:
I never nap; I really enjoy art; I love the color purple;
I am competitive by nature; I rarely, if ever, eat dessert;
I eat doggie-bag leftovers for breakfast; I feel content when I’m near bodies of water; I usually start waking up after 4 hours of sleep; I drink wine – for years it was white – now most often it’s red; And I crave spicy food!
My kitchen staples: Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – a BFF
Jalapeños — bought fresh, sliced and pickled
Wasabi paste and/or powder
Smoked Hot Paprika
Frank’s Hot Sauce
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Thai Lime Spicy Cashews
So in honor of my penchant for all things spicy, I recently cooked a few savory dishes found in my February 2014 issue of Redbook. With the sriracha chicken recipe, I used a combination of legs and breasts. For the most intense flavor, I marinated the chicken overnight. And since the pieces were on the large size, we cooked them for about 45 minutes.
Sriracha Roasted Chicken
½-3/4 cup sriracha hot sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. lime zest
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
4 whole chicken legs (about 2 lb), thigh and drumstick attached
Optional: Cilantro leaves and lime wedges for garnish
In a medium sauce bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients, except the chicken. Reserve a ¼ cup and set aside. Add the rest of the sauce to the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag, seal and refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees with a rack positioned 4 inches from broiler. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange on baking sheet in a single layer, skin side up. Bake until chicken registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer, 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
Brush Chicken with reserved marinade. Increase heat to broil and continue cooking until skin begins to brown, about 3 minutes.
Serve chicken with cilantro and lime wedges.
Another wonderful savory dish from the February issue of Redbook:
Spicy Orange Salmon with Wasabi Sauce
1 side of salmon, skin on (about 1 ½ lb)
4 tsp. orange zest*
¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
½ tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup orange juice*
4-6 tsp. wasabi paste
2 scallions, sliced, plus more for serving
Heat broiler with rack set 4 inches from heat. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place salmon, skin side down on sheet.
Mix together orange zest, salt, sugar and cayenne and rub over salmon flesh. Place under broiler until fish begins to turn brown and is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place yogurt, orange juice, wasabi paste and scallions in a blender and puree until smooth; season with salt.
Slice salmon into 4 portions and serve with rice topped with wasabi sauce and scallions.
*Since I had several blood oranges on hand (see my Blood Orange blogBlood Orange blog), I substituted the zest and juice in this recipe for that of the blood oranges, which I think gave it more intense color and flavor.
Will definitely be posting more on “all things spicy” in the future. If you have a favorite spicy recipe, I’d love to hear from you!