Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baked Baby Acorn Squash with Crispy Sage

When you hit on something deliriously good because you can't rely on a stick of butter to make it so, it's a 5 star day. I swear this is the best acorn squash I've ever eaten in my life. The chicken stock in the baking dish adds so much complex flavor, and the crispy sage leaves ~ which you must include ~ will have you cleaning your plate. My husband and I ate the entire test recipe immediately, but I'm not sorry I'll have to think of something else to go with dinner. Speaking of dinner, if you're rushed for time getting it on the table, you can make this in advance and re-heat the following night. Serves 2, but easily increased to however many you like.

2 Baby acorn squash, about 12 oz each (or you can get a big one instead, around 2 lb)
1 Bunch fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 Cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 c-ish Homemade chicken stock
2-4 TB Whole coconut milk

Preheat oven to 375*F

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Generously salt and pepper the insides. Stuff 1 garlic clove and a few sage leaves in the cavity of each half and place face down in a glass or ceramic baking dish, like this:

For a larger squash, use about 6 cloves of garlic and a big handful of sage leaves. Pour about 1/4" chicken stock in the dish, just enough to keep the squash from sticking or burning, and to add lots of flavor during baking. Water will do in a pinch but honestly, the chicken stock is sooo much better. Bake about 40 minutes for the baby squash, closer to an hour if you're using a large one. Check for doneness: you should be able to put a fork in the flesh and easily turn it. Allow to cool.

While the squash is cooling, coat the bottom of a skillet with EVOO over medium heat and wait for the oil to ripple; you want the leaves to crisp, not soak. Pick the biggest sage leaves, about 3 per serving, and fry in the oil around 2-3 minutes, watching that they don't burn, until they start to curl. If you haven't done this before, cook a couple of test leaves first. Gently remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. (I saved the sage oil in a glass jar to use another time.)

Scoop flesh out of squash halves and run through a food mill with the medium plate. A food mill will give you the best texture, but if you don't have one, use a ricer (not a food processor.) If you need to, warm the squash up again in a saucepan over medium heat until it's steaming. Beat in warmed coconut milk and chicken stock (not what was left in the baking dish, that'll be too garlicky) in a ratio of 2:1, to the consistency you like, with a wire whisk. I used 2 TB coconut milk and 1 TB stock. Taste for salt & pepper. Beautifully sweet, creamy, perfectly seasoned squash without an ounce of butter or cream.

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