One thing I have learned as a kitchen duffer: it is important to always try new things, but one really must also respect one’s place. Who was I to go messing with the recipes of thirschfeld? I mean, sure, one can skip a garnish, maybe substitute an herb here and there, but in terms of seriously messing, in the words of George Costanza, who was I to play God?
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In truth –- and Jenny tells you all the ugly truth about her kitchen, like about the pizza soup I made Saturday night, which should not be confused with the lasagna soup I recently had on a road trip in Illinois, because that was totally intentional -– I do not usually attempt our man in Indiana’s recipes during the week.
This is because, in general, I do not find them quite easy enough for a working mom on a Monday night, unless of course that mom is married to a guy who apparently starts his day butchering a chicken out of the backyard, then cooking up something incredibly fabulous for his family with the kill, which is sort of like a Bridges of Madison County for the foodie set scenario.
But I decided to take the plunge as I clicked around the site looking for something to do with red miso. (This is an ingredient that needs no further explanation, right?) So I landed on Red Cooked Butternut Squash by thirschfeld, a recipe for which I had almost every ingredient, including my super-awesome homemade beef stock, which I highly recommend for this dish.
But then, I had to go get all short-cutty. Mistake. First of all, I used frozen cubed butternut squash, thinking this would shorten the prep and cooking time. Also, short on chilies, I sprinkled on some red pepper flakes instead, which really, of course, does not have the same effect. The net result was a bowl of soy and beef scented mush, unpalatable, deeply wrong.
But the hint of miso and the depth of the broth were just enough to nudge me to go back to the recipe a day later, with the proper vegetable (I only needed one large squash to get the slices he calls for) and the correct use of seasonings. (Okay so I never got a chili. But this time I used a squirt of sriracha instead, which in my view is an imperfect though highly reasonable substitute.)
Because this is basically, as our author suggests, a braise, it is truly a very simple dish to make, as long as you have the components on hand. You get your broth going in a few seconds, and during that time, you will be peeling and cutting your squash. While it cooks, you make the rest of your dinner.
About a half hour later, a highly fragrant, slightly sweet and pleasant looking bowl of squash is at the ready. Because side dishes are my enemy, I decided to dump this over a bowl of jasmine rice, mixed with some Korean-style skirt steak leftovers from the night before. Had the cilantro at the store not looked so punk, that would have been the final delightful touch for me. As you know, I do not garnish, but for thirschfeld, at least I considered it.
1 to 2 butternut squash, tops peeled to the orange part, no green strips they are bitter, and cut them into 1/2 inch rounds, you should have 10 to 12 rounds
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 red chiles, hot ones
1 teaspoon red miso paste
sesame seeds for garnish
scallions cut into thin rounds for garnish
cilantro, minced for garnish
1 fuji apple, grated, for garnish
In a sauce pan place the garlic, broth, soy sauce, seasame oil and one of the chiles. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat. This is to bring the flavors together since it is a short braise.
Add the squash and miso, bring it back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook until it is tender. About 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the squash to a bowl and ladle some broth over it. Place the garnishes in small bowls and let the diner choose which toppings they want. Serve.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).