Thursday, October 9, 2014

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Following the crazed cooking bonanza of the Great Cooking Streak of '14 and Cafaux TH, I found myself in the ultimate groove. I was spitting out words almost as quickly as I was knocking out dishes, but then a work trip and lots of eating out forced an end to all that (until I finally figure out how to cook things in the hotel coffee pot). Tonight, the itch to cook became too great, and I decided to rectify things. Since autumn is finally upon us, I decided to celebrate it with not one, but three kinds of squash in a comfort food dinner featuring Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, as well as, roasted zucchini and yellow squash.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Pinch of Yum
Servings: 6
Time: 40 minutes
One of these was a lot harder to chop than the other

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 tbsp butter
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
5 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2/3-1 cup shredded cheese (I used Gruyére)
Scallions, chopped for garnish
Salt, pepper, and sriracha to taste

So boring and cheeseless. It looks like the lamest pasta ever, but it has a bright future.

Sauce that is practically a bisque
  1. Get water boiling and cook your macaroni according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. While boiling your macaroni, sauté the onion with butter in a pan over medium heat until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). When almost done, add the garlic and let cook for 1 minute.
  3. In a separate large pan, sauté the jalapeno and red bell pepper with olive oil over medium heat until tender (about 10 minutes).
  4. In a large pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the butternut squash and let simmer until tender (about 7 minutes).
  5. Drain the squash, reserving ~ 1/2 cup of the broth.
  6. Combine the broth, butternut squash, milk, onion, garlic, and salt together in a blender and puree until smooth. Add additional milk to control the desired level of creaminess.  Adjust the flavor with salt, pepper, and sriracha.
  7. Add the macaroni to the large pan with the peppers. Stir in the sauce and cheese until melted and well distributed.
  8. Top with scallions and serve.

Much, much better.
Now this was a mac & cheese experience unlike any other. The butternut squash sauce added a richness, creaminess, and fullness that was seriously bisque-esque (fun new word!), while the peppers brought a little kick and delicate crunch. This might not be everyone's idea of a proper Kraftian adventure since the cheese itself is actually somewhat understated (although this is easily remedied by seriously upping the cheese quotient), but it doesn't have to be the star of the dish since the sauce is just that good. If you want to keep the semi-healthy nature intact but add a little more flavor and protein, I'd recommend crumbling in some tempeh "bacon" (which my store was sadly out of). After tonight, I am a lot more excited about the many delicious prospects of the fall season.

The full meal- complete with 2 more kinds of squash and Gardein "chicken"

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