12 Holiday Food Comas: Rosemary Squash Casserole

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I know it’s wrong, but sometimes I just pour heavy cream on things. Just…all over it. Strawberries, peaches, waffles, my hand, etc. Usually those moments are influenced by the emotional eating part of my brain that says things like “If you’re sad, food will make you happy!” and other illogical things.

In this instance, however, the cream is not so random and impulsive. It melds wonderfully with the herbs and squash, creating a wonderful cold-weather dish that pairs beautifully with almost anything (…like more cream?). Be fairly generous with the salt and pepper and don’t try and go “lean” with skim milk— it will separate in the oven and not thicken properly while the dish cools.

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Rosemary Squash Casserole
1 1/4 c heavy cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 t chopped fresh sage
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 c grated parmigiano
1 small butternut squash, peeled
2 small russet potatoes
1 small sweet potato, peeled
2 t salt

Preheat your oven to 375 and grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan. In a small saucepan over low heat combine the herbs and cream, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, thinly slice the squash and potatoes. Layer them in the pan with the salt, pepper, and parmigiano (sprinkle them every time you make a new layer). When the cream is hot, fish the thyme sprigs out and pour the cream over the potatoes and squash in the pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let rest for about an hour or two, to give the cream time to thicken. Warm gently when ready to serve and sprinkle with additional parmigiano. Nomnom!

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Mustard Glazed Brussel Sprouts

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I love the question “Oh, do you have a cold?” I am always tempted to reply with something snarky and sarcastic, such as “Nah, I just normally sound like a muppet stuffed inside an empty Pringles can. Thanks, chief!” All merely because I’m bitter and tired and snotty and coughing up half a lung. What really gets my goat is that the person doesn’t usually care about you. Nope. What they really mean to say is “Please get the hell away from me so I don’t catch the Plague from the molten grossness pouring out of you.” I am perfect just the way I am, thank you, and if you don’t like it then I suggest you don’t touch your sleeve. I just used it as a tissue. You’re welcome.

At least there is food. Sweet, delicious recipes to make the world a better place.

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I’ve been wrestling with this particular one for awhile now. What kind of mustard is best for texture, for taste, for aesthetics; is vinegar too sour to use with the subtle nature of the ingredients, or am I just using too much or the wrong kind; should the shallots be replaced with bacon? These are the questions that plagued my soul and my sprouts.

Mostly the bacon query. Man, do I miss bacon.

What really did the trick here, for me, was cooking the shallots first and then removing them completely from the pan. I’m a big fan of throwing everything in at once and seeing where the wind takes me, but sometimes things just taste better when the components are cooked separately (stir-fries fall into this category, and man– was that a tough lesson to learn). I’ll be damned.

Whole grain mustard is really the best choice, because others don’t have quite the BAM flavor and they also alter the consistency of the final sauce.

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Mustard Glazed Brussel Sprouts

2 shallots, diced fine
1 lb Brussel sprounts, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
3 T olive oil
1 heaping T whole grain mustard
1/2 t dry mustard
1/4 c broth
2  T white wine
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
pinch red pepper flakes

In a large pan heat 1 T oil over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and cook about 10 minutes, or until brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat the remaining 2T oil in the pan and, when hot, place Brussels face down. Cook over medium heat until brown, then shake the pan to loosen the sprouts. Whisk together the mustards, broth, vinegar, rosemary, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Increase the pan’s heat to high and add the wine. Reduce by about half and then add the herb-broth mixture.. Cook until liquid reduces by about half, then remove from heat. Add back in the shallots and serve hot.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

This lasagna is a real crowd pleaser: creamy without being oily with a good punch of squashiness. It lacks the often painfully long lasagna prep and is very easy to throw together. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on this pan o’ noodles, and we all know how much I love to be flattered.

You will need:
1 medium-sized Kabocha squash (or a medium Butternut)
*Kabocha squash is commonly used in Asian cooking; you often see it in tempura and think it’s sweet potato. It has a very distinctive green rind and is often referred to as pumpkin on the menus.
2 large shallots
2 leeks
2 T olive oil
2 T white wine
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
S & P
pinch nutmeg
1 quart milk
2 c shredded mozzerella
1 lb cottage cheese
3/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 package ready-bake lasagna noodles

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake the squash, cut in half with cut side up, until a fork goes through easily.

Dice the shallots and leek, making sure to rinse the leek thoroughly! Saute over medium-high heat with the olive oil until soft.

Meanwhile, warm the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. There’s nothing quite like a pan of burnt, disgusting milk, so make sure you remember to give it a shimmy and a shake every now and then. Otherwise, you’ll be making all the mama cows out there cry!

When the leeks and shallots are soft, reduce with a shot of white wine:

add the butter:

(mmm fat) with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. When the butter has melted, add the flour and mix until incorporated.

Cook for a minute or two. When the roux is nice and thick, slowly add one cup of the warm milk.

And stir until smooth. It’s important not to add all of the milk at once; if you do, it will be a lot harder to have a smooth mixture and your hand will get tired from whisking so much. Slowly add the rest of the milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Turn off the heat.

Mash up the squash in a separate bowl

and add it to the milk mixture:

Stir it until somewhat homogenous and then go at it with an immersion blender:

And, voila! You will have a beautiful, smooth, bright orange mixture to behold:

Mix together the shredded mozzarella and cottage cheese

And you’re ready to assemble! BOOM!

Grease a 13″x9″ pan thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of squash-sauce on the bottom:

Layer noodles, more squash-sauce, the cottage-mozz mixture, and a generous sprinkling of parm until you run out of ingredients. It should be about 3 chunky layers:

The top of the lasagna should be parm and cheese-mixture, but not a lot of it. Just a dabble.

Let this sit for about 20 minutes to let the noodles absorb some liquid before they go into the oven.

Preheat your oven to 375 and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Personally, I think this is best served the next day; however, I have much higher standards than the average minion and don’t expect all of you to live up to my superior taste buds.

Now go get your nom on!