Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Acorn Squash and kale in brown butter

Squash and kale are two vegetables that I strongly associate with late Fall and Winter.  Acorn squash is by far my favorite Winter squash. It is easy to roast in the oven or pan-roast in a skillet and it has a wonderful nutty, sweet flavor.  Kale and acorn squash together are a perfect medley of savory and sweet.

Inspired by a dish at Locanda in which chicories were sauteed in brown butter, I decided to make brown butter kale and acorn squash. The brown butter imparted a rich, intense flavor to the dish that cannot be replicated in any other way.  Adding brown butter harmonizes the two with a wonderful nutty richness and creates a delightfully inviting aroma.

First, I pan-roasted acorn squash in brown butter until tender, seasoning simply with sea salt and pepper. 

Meanwhile, I blanched kale in boiling salted water and once cooled, drained and squeezed out excess water, and chopped into small ribbons.  I heated butter until browning, added hazelnuts and toasted for a few minutes. Once I removed the hazelnuts, I added sauteed garlic and crushed red pepper in the same brown butter and added kale, cooking until warmed through. 

I arranged the acorn squash, kale, and hazelnuts on a plate and topped with shaved pecorino cheese.  It would be wonderful with a fried or poached egg as well. 

Acorn Squash and kale in brown butter

1/2 acorn squash, cut into 6 slices
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and ribs removed
2 fat cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 hazelnuts
pecorino or parmesan cheese
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a cast iron skillet, melt butter over moderately high heat.  Lay squash slices in a single layer, careful not to overlap. Season with sea salt and pepper, cooking until tender and starting to brown on side that is face down. Carefully flip over and repeat on other side.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Remove and set on a plate.

Bring water to a boil, salt, and add kale.  Cook for 6-7 minutes until tender. Remove kale and drain in colander. Once it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out of excess water, and chop coarsely.  In a large skillet, melt butter until starting to brown over moderately high heat.  Add hazelnuts, cook for 2 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  In the same brown butter, add garlic, cooking for 30 seconds, then add crushed red pepper and chopped kale.  Season with sea salt and pepper. Stir to coat well and let cook for 3-4 minutes, turn over and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until thoroughly warm.

Arrange squash, kale, and hazelnuts on a plate.  Season lightly with sea salt and pepper, if needed. Top with shaved pecorino or parmesan.

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