The power is yours!

Roasted chicken with celery root and onion

Roasted acorn squash with lemon and nutmeg

The dynamic duo...forgive the mixed superhero metaphor

The dynamic duo…forgive the mixed superhero metaphor

First, brace yourself for some early 90’s cartoon references.  

Ok, as for the recipe, let me say that these two are absolutely delicious recipes on their own.  I would definitely make them again.  

This is probably the American guy, Fire.

This is probably the American guy, Fire.

The chicken is great.  The celery root and onion make for a fine side dish, so you really don’t need to serve anything else.  My very best friend chicken fat makes another appearance, so you know I’m happy.  The red pepper flakes keep it from being too rich.  Nothing gets burned or weird.  

But no one has to be Heart.  That poor kid...

But no one has to be Heart. That poor kid…

The acorn squash is spectacular.  Nutmeg and acorn squash are a natural combo.  There’s something wonderfully fall-like about it.  I would make this as a side dish for Thanksgiving.  The lemon zest is interesting and bright.  It keeps the squash from dragging into that too rich territory that Thanksgiving sides often veer into.  

But that’s not what makes this a great meal.  It’s the combination of the two.  When their powers combine they create a delicious synergy…a Captain Planet of meat and veggies, if you will.  Look it up, kids.  Honestly, I don’t know why the magazine doesn’t suggest making them together.  They normally don’t miss an opportunity to show you how the recipes can go together.  From a cooking standpoint, they are both made in the oven at the same temperature.  That’s huge.  How many times have you looked at two recipes only to find out that one is cooked at 325 and the other at 400?  Too many times.  And the chicken cooks for a longer than the squash, but not by too much.  That gives you just enough time to prep the squash while the chicken starts cooking.  Then there’s the lemon  zest.  They both get lemon zest on top.  The lemon on the chicken connects the flavor to the lemon on the squash.  Finally, the squash acts as your starch for the meal, while the chicken takes care of the protein, fat (read: schmaltz for life!), and aromatics.  I recommend these on their own, but I really love them together.

My dad hated Captain Planet.  That just made us want to watch it more, even though we hated it too now that I think about it.

My dad hated Captain Planet. That just made us want to watch it more, even though we hated it too now that I think about it.

I just realized that I enjoyed the episodes of Captain Planet much more before actual Captain Planet showed up, so this isn’t a great metaphor for this meal.  I liked to see all of the ethnic stereotypes try and work it out for themselves.  It seemed like a cop out to have Captain Planet swoop in and fix things, even if he was sort of part of them…I guess.  Did he exist or were they imagining him as a way to explain their own actions?  Does anyone remember if other people could see him?  If you want to fall down a wikipedia rabbit hole, here it is.  All that aside, the powers of these recipes combined are greater than my confusion about the cartoons of my childhood.

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Nothing Says November Like… Acorn Squash

That’s right!  We are officially onto blogging about November!  And it’s still November!  This is a major accomplishment.  Be proud, be very proud.  We did this for you.  We want you to hear about glorious Christmas cookies and Holiday feasts in a timely manner.  You are welcome!

And now I am going to tell you all about acorn squash.  Acorn squash was the In Season highlight for the issue we chose, November 2007, no. 47.  I may have previously mentioned that I have a half bushel of acorn squash in my coat-closet-turned-pantry so this issue was an obvious selection for us.  The good news is that the rest of the issue is pretty awesome as well.

I started with Garlic-Crusted Pork Loin with Mashed Acorn Squash. I couldn’t find the recipe online so if you have the magazine, you can find it on pg. 34.

No, that is not a pork loin… It's another freakishly large pork chop.

No, that is not a pork loin… It’s another freakishly large pork chop.

So here’s the gist if you don’t have the magazine.

Ingredients:

Olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Pork loin roast (about 1 3/4 lbs) or as you see in the picture above a couple of decent sized pork chops

2 acorn squash

1/4 cup sour cream (the recipe calls for reduced-fat, but I try to go for the real thing where dairy is concerned unless it’s milk)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

The idea in the original recipe is to cook everything at the same time in a 450 deg. oven.  Since I was using pork chops I assumed they wouldn’t take quite as long to cook because they aren’t as thick so I actually used to pans.  Prep the squash by cutting them in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds (if you are a fan of roasted pumpkin seeds you can use these the same way).  Prep the meat by finely chopping the garlic.  If you have a garlic press, it makes this job much easier. Once the garlic is well chopped, sprinkle it with coarse salt and smear it with the side of a chefs knife until it forms a paste.  Then smear that paste along with some olive oil, salt and pepper on whatever meat you choose.  If you are doing the loin put that in the center of a baking sheet and arrange the squash cut side down around it.  Pop that into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Since I did chops I started those on the stove on a medium heat while I put the squash in the oven.  After getting some color on both sides of the chop I added that to the oven as well and used a meat thermometer to make sure it was cooked through.  I timed it so the pork went in the oven when there was about 20 minutes left on the squash and the timing worked out pretty well that they both came out at the same time.

Once the squash is out you scoop it into a bowl with the sour cream and brown sugar and mash it all up.  Then you are ready to go!

This was an incredibly flavorful meal.  The garlic rub was incredible.  I am definitely going to use that method again.  The mashed acorn squash was subtle but really delicious as well.  I was thrilled with how these went together and I was so satisfied by the end of the meal.

I also made the Acorn Squash Bisque.

And of course, served it with grilled cheese!

And of course, served it with grilled cheese!

This was not only really simple, but so so so so so (imagine about 5 more so’s) good!  It’s like liquid autumn.  It tastes incredible.  The thyme goes so well with the squash.  It is also rich but not so rich that you can’t easily have seconds.  I highly recommend this one to anyone with a blender or food processor!

The only squash recipe that I wasn’t thrilled with was the Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash. When I say “wasn’t thrilled”, I mean “wasn’t blown away by”.  This recipe was still good, just not my style as much as the other two.

IMG_0826

The magazine claims that once the skin is roasted it becomes “soft and tasty”.  It does become soft.  And yes, it was edible.  I think “tasty” was a bit of a reach.  I didn’t love it.  There wasn’t much flavor overall, but it was faintly bitter.  Also the texture of the skin was a little annoying.  It wasn’t pleasant to chew through.  Unfortunately, since the squash was cut so small, it was difficult/messy to eat if you didn’t want to eat the skin.  It meant pealing each little piece before eating.  Not worth the effort.  I think if I want to achieve this flavor in the future, I would just leave the pieces as halves or quarters and scoop the flesh out of the skin as I went rather than take the time to cut into small pieces.

Now G is going to tell you about Wild Rice Stuffed Squash!

Yeah, I am!  G here, and here is my beautiful friend:

You can't tell me that doesn't look like November

You can’t tell me that doesn’t look like November

As the recipe is written, this is a vegetarian main dish.  But….you know me, I had to substitute.  In fact, there are a couple substitutions with this recipe.  The first is the wild rice mix.  I know what they meant.  They meant one of those boxed mixes with some brown rice, some white, some wild.  The recipe says this mixture will all cook together in 25 minutes on the stove.  Well, I only found this at the store:

insert rice gone wild joke here

insert rice gone wild joke here

That’s Minnesota “wild” rice.  Just the long, black grains.  The bag said it would take just under an hour to cook on the stove.  Shoot.  I had waited until there was about 25 minutes left for the squash to roast in the oven before starting the rice.  No time to wait for this stuff to cook.  So I followed the microwave directions and cooked my “wild” rice in 1 cup low sodium chicken broth and 1/2 cup water.  It took roughly a half hour to cook that way.  That’s yet another substitution.  I cooked the rice in a broth and water mixture because I wanted to add more flavor.

On to the bigger substitution.  I added a 1/2 lb ground turkey, browned, to the stuffing.  I browned it in the skillet immediately after the “shallot” (I substituted red onion…shoot!  That’s another substitution!), garlic, and sage were done sautéing.  I also added grated parmesan cheese to the top of the heap and browned it all together in a 350 degree oven for five minutes at the very end of cooking to bring the flavors together and the melt cheese.  I still think the stuffing flavor could have oozed down into the squash a little more.  The next time I make this, would undercook the squash a little and let it finish cooking with the stuffing inside it.  I think this recipe was more like squash with the side dish heaped inside than something truly stuffed.

One more substitution: I used dried cranberries instead of dried cherries.  Why?  Because I’m cheap and craisins are delicious.

This winds up being a very filling and delicious recipe, but I have a hard time imagining it without the turkey.  It really adds a lot.  Perfectly appropriate for a main dish once you make these changes.  I think otherwise it’s a side dish.  Sorry vegetarians!

Oh, and if you’re at all curious whether this is appropriate for a baby, I made one of the squash halves just for J.  I omitted the wild rice and the cranberries because they both seemed like potential choking hazards.  He really enjoyed this one.

J's is the top left

J’s is the top left

 

Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! (And an Acorn Squash and some salmon)

In case that title wasn’t clear, this post is about fennel.  Fennel in four different recipes to be exact.  G and I split the load again, so I’m going to start off by talking about roasted fennel and the acorn squash recipe that I served it with.

One of these days I will get some better lighting...

One of these days I will get some better lighting…

So the acorn squash is actually very similar to the way I grew up eating it.  My mom used to make baked acorn squash all winter long, except she would serve it with honey and a little butter.  Aside from the honey, the process is the same.  I found the molasses flavor of the brown sugar to be really pleasant with the acorn squash so I will probably be using it again sometime.  (Did I mention that I have a half bushel of acorn squash waiting in my pantry?)

I have also made roasted fennel before, but I usually serve it with fish.  This time I served it with a pork loin I made using a maple mustard glaze.  The fennel was a delicious complement to the pork flavor.  I’ll definitely be combining them again.

Next I made a Fennel and Potato Bake.

Still bubbling!!!

Still bubbling!!!

I have to say here, the recipe requires you to thinly slice two fennel bulbs.  If you have one, I would recommend using a mandoline for this.  Slicing with a knife is a bit rough because the fennel keeps falling apart and it is really difficult to get even slices.

The recipe itself is pretty simple, though it requires a decent amount of prep time if you are doing all the slicing with a knife (seriously folks, use a mandoline).  You just sprinkle some asiago, salt and pepper between layers of fennel and potato then pour a little cream over the top.

The outcome is awesome.  The texture is super satisfying and the flavor is amazing! As soon as I get a mandoline, I’m making this again!

Passing the torch to G!

Thanks, B!  First, of all, fear the mandoline.  I once came home from school to find nothing but a mandoline, some carrots, a lot of blood, and no mom.  This is back before cell phones.  She had cut off the tip of her thumb using a mandoline.  She was fine.  It was just a slice of skin, and it grew back.  How’s that for a good story for a cooking blog?  Anyway, it scared me off of mandolines for life.  I use a knife or the slicing blade on a food processor.  Mandolins on the other hand, are a lovely instrument.  😉

I made the linguine with fennel and tuna and the Fennel, orange, and parsley salad.  I served the fennel and orange salad as a side with the Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze, so I’ll talk about that too.  And you’ll find out why “steaks” is in quotes.

Linguine with fennel and tuna

It's difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture...

It’s difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture…

I adjusted this recipe by using thin whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine.  Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.  It winds up being nice.  I don’t believe I’d ever had cooked fennel before.  It takes on a more subtle and nutty flavor than the sharp anise flavor you get with fresh fennel.  The capers added a nice briny bite.  The tuna grounded the whole dish and gave it some richness.  I like that even the bites that didn’t have a little of everything still tasted like something.  Too often with these Everyday Food pasta recipes, you get a mouthful of plain noodles and wonder why you bothered.  I’ll get to the whole wheat pasta with kale and fontina later…  The biggest problem with this recipe is how unappetizing it looks.  Aside from the green fennel fronds, it’s all kind of beige.  Ick.

Fennel, orange, and parsley salad

Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

There’s also a video of this recipe online.  It looks like it’s from the old PBS show.  I miss that show.  The video teaches you how to segment an orange.  She (Allie?) points out that you can use the stalks to make stock.  That’s a good tip.  Mostly the video just serves to make me nostalgic for the PBS show and wish I had a knife sharp enough to segment an orange that quickly and cleanly.

The fennel salad is very nice and bright.  The recipe called for black olives, which I found confusing.  When I think “black olives” I still think of the dopey little olives you get on a pizza.  Taking a look at the picture in the magazine, it was clear that these were no pizza olives.  But what were they?  D wound up buying something at the store from the olive bar.  They were terribly salty.  The video says to use Kalamata olives, which makes perfect sense.  So why don’t you say that, Everyday Food?!?!  This recipe also represents the last gasp of the parsley from our garden.  Sunrise, sun barely shine on garden resulting in stilted growth and wan looking plants with no fruit on them, sun set.

As for the salmon, I really wish I would have bought salmon steaks.  That’s what the recipe actually calls for.  We had a giant side of salmon instead.  It was fine salmon, it’s just that when you broil a piece of fish that’s not uniform thickness, you wind up with an overcooked end and an undercooked end.  The glaze is awesome.  Why am I not putting hoisin sauce and orange juice on more things?  That could have been the dressing for the salad…  Of course, now that I have the 1/2 a jar of hoisin sauce, I’m facing the dreaded condiment glut in the fridge.  If I cook my leftover rice noodles, can I put hoisin sauce on them and kill two orphan ingredients with one stone?