This warming, vegetable-packed braise is the type of dinner I would happily eat every night of the week. It’s rich and decadent without being heavy, and it hits so many flavor notes (spicy, tangy, savory, sweet!) despite its short ingredient list. It also happens to be vegan. It’s a nod to the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash from Toro Bravo—the same restaurant in Portland, Oregon that gave us this "Genius" Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette.
For my rendition, I used coconut milk versus heavy cream as the braising liquid, added crushed coriander and rosemary (one of my favorite flavor pairings with squash), and streamlined the steps to make it more weeknight friendly. It’s a dish that’s far more than the sum of its parts: The starches of the squash beautifully meld with and thicken the coconut milk, and the fiery kick from the chile sauce is nicely tempered by the rest of the components. I usually reach for harissa when making this dish, but other types of chile sauces, such as gochujang or sambal oelek, stand in nicely.
A few notes: It’s important to get a good char on the squash before braising it; this step brings out the nutty-sweetness of the squash and lends smoky depth. The easiest, least messy way to do this is by broiling the squash on a sheet pan. If you don’t have a broiler, sear the squash in a skillet (in two or more batches) without crowding the pieces. —EmilyC
2 to 3 pounds
winter squash (such as 1 large butternut, or 2 medium delicata)
olive oil, divided
Kosher salt plus freshly ground black pepper, to taste
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, minced
minced fresh rosemary
1 13.5 ounces
can unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)
chile sauce, such as harissa, or to taste (see author note)
To prep the squash: Peel the squash if using butternut; no need to peel delicata. Halve lengthwise and remove seeds and stringy flesh. Cut into 3/4-inch chunks.
On a sheet pan, toss the squash with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, or just enough to coat. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper.
Heat the broiler with an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heating element. Broil the squash until nicely charred on the first side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and broil about 1 to 2 minutes longer. (The total time will depend on the intensity of your broiler, so keep a close eye on the squash!)
In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until tender, about 5 minutes (a little browning around the edges is fine) then add the garlic, coriander, and rosemary and sauté a minute longer. Add the charred squash, stirring to coat it evenly in the oil.
Add the coconut milk, harissa, and another pinch or two of salt, and bring to a simmer. Half cover the pan with the lid, and braise for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Add a little water (using the empty can to get every last bit of coconut milk!), as needed, if the sauce starts to get a little dry.
Adjust salt to taste, and add more chile sauce if desired. Serve warm with couscous or rice as a complete meal, or as a side to virtually any protein.