Buttered Sage Butternut Squash Mash

How’s that for a mouthful?

How about this, then?

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1 large butternut squash
2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
handful fresh sage
~1 Tbsp heavy cream
salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Wash the squash well and place it on a cookie sheet or baking tray in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes. No need to poke with a fork.

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2. Remove squash from oven. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes, then slice with a large knife. I quarter mine for easy scooping. Spoon out the seeds and guts and toss. Peel away skin (it should be bubbled and loose) and toss.

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3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sage and fry for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and fragrant, but not burned, and the sage is just crispy. Reduce heat to low; add squash. Continue to cook until squash is warm throughout, just a couple of minutes. Add cream and stir.

4. Scrape the entire contents of the pan into a food processor, being careful to get any and all bits of garlic and sage. Purée. Return to pan and stir gently over low heat for another couple of minutes, then serve immediately.

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SO easy, rich, and delicious! You get all the flavor of butternut squash without the hassle; I enjoy this with simple, pan-fried pork sausage, sautéed in a splash of red wine.

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Serves 2.

Just scale up for more servings. I suggest making two at a time.

Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta with Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta

We’ve been eating a lot of polenta around here lately.  I thought it was time to expand my ground cornmeal palate beyond my Horseradish Cheese Grits and my Dijon Cheesy Grits (read this if you’re confused about the difference between polenta and grits and masa).

I finally ran out of Henry Langdon’s amazing Sea Salt Rub (as featured in my Shrimp and Grits recipe); my pals Mike and Laura brought a big jar of it back from their trip to Australia a few years back, and it was like magic cooking dust.  I wish I had some more (hint, hint, Shalini).  In the meantime, here’s my attempt at replicating its flavor profile with some rich, cheesy polenta, which, it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for the
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
we made after our recent, massive chile harvest.

Make a whole big batch of this and then enjoy it reheated for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

2 cups polenta
8 cups water
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp prepared horseradish sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp dried and chopped kaffir lime leaves
sea salt, or to taste
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil, to taste

1. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan with a little salt.

2. Add polenta. Stir, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed.

3. Remove pan from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly until well-mixed. Taste and salt as desired.

4. Spoon out and serve immediately, drizzled with
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
, or spoon polenta into a bowl, refrigerate, and serve later in slices. You could also use the firmed-up leftovers for my Fried Polenta with Creamy Mushrooms.

Or you could top it with homemade bacon bits.

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Eric’s Curry Hummus Devilled Eggs

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12 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cooled
1 cup Baby Zach’s Smoked Thai Curry Hummus*
2 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 Tbsp paprika, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
a few dashes of Cholula sauce, to taste

1. On a clean surface, cut the eggs in half lengthwise.

2.Gently scoop out the yolks with a spoon and place in a medium sized mixing bowl.

3. Add all of the dry ingredients and the Cholula, reserving 1 tablespoon of paprika. Mix thoroughly but gently with a fork.

4. Refill the sliced eggs with the mixture and dust with paprika to garnish.

5. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, then serve.

As you can see, Eric likes to over-stuff his eggs. And they’re delicious. Try it!

*We pick ours up on Sunday mornings at the Mueller Farmers Market.

Sweet Potato Soup with Candied Bacon

Here’s a recipe for those of you who find yourself with a half a bag of leftover sweet potatoes after the holiday! It was a real hit at our house, and I hope you enjoy it.

Beware: the candied bacon is addictive.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
two pinches of Old Bay
splash of bourbon
~2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or to taste)

12 bacon rashers
brown or natural raw sugar

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook about five minutes until just translucent, stirring occasionally. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the bacon, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Add bacon to a large plastic bag, leaving the top of the bag open wide. Sprinkle in sugar, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to cover each piece of bacon. You want each piece to be nicely covered in a thin layer of sugar, not clumping. I use just about 1/4 cup of sugar for a whole package of bacon.

3. Remove each bacon rasher from the bag and spread out flat on a cooking rack. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet under this to catch the bacon fat, and place the entire thing into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Check it at 15 to see if it’s done. Do not raise the temperature to speed cooking.

4. While the bacon is baking, spices and salt to the sweet potatoes and stir thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of bourbon to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir again, then pour in vegetable broth. Raise heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and easily crumbled with the back of your stirring spoon.

5. Pour sweet potatoes and broth into a large food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency, doing two batches if necessary (simply pour half in, process, and then remove to a bowl; pour other half from stock pot, process, and then return to pot along with the half in the bowl). I like my sweet potato soup a little chunky, so I processed about 3/4 of the pot, and smashed the remaining large pieces of potato up with the back of my spoon before returning the blended soup to the pot.

6. Stir thoroughly, taste to adjust spices and salt, and continue to simmer over very low heat until the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, and break into edible pieces (not bacon bits, but small enough to scoop up with a soup spoon!). Drizzle cream into soup and stir thoroughly.

7. Ladle soup out into bowls and top with candied bacon pieces. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Serves 4.




Garlic Cauliflower Mash

1 large head of cauliflower / 1 lb bag of frozen cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 large onion, widely sliced
~1/2 tsp raw, brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sour cream
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Drizzle a little olive oil in a medium baking pan; grease the pan with your fingers. If using frozen cauliflower, defrost first; otherwise, place de-leafed, chopped cauliflower and garlic in pan. Add salt and pepper and turn over a few times so that the veggies are nicely mixed and coated with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning over with a spoon halfway through for even roasting.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add onions and sugar and stir. Sauté for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are nicely browned, fragrant, and caramelized.

3. Add caramelized onions, the remaining tablespoon of butter, sour cream, and a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) to a food processor. Once the cauliflower is done (you want it cooked through and just roasted—crispy but not deeply browned), add it to the food processor, too. Make sure you get all of the garlic out of the roasting pan and into the mixer. Mix with other ingredients until smooth (about three minutes). Use a spoon to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl if necessary.

4. Spoon out and serve immediately with butter, cheese, or gravy.

Serves 2.

Shown here with bangers and Stella’s Special Mushroom and Onion Gravy.