See the butternut, buy the butternut

blogff0318.JPGThere is no way that a butternut squash is going to make it onto your table unless you bribe someone else to make it for you, or (cheaper) you make it yourself.  Forget simmering it with a little onion and garlic and pancetta and tomato and cayenne and olive oil, to ladle onto a piece of toasted beautiful bread. Forget making it into a pie with a shortbread crust topped with freshly whipped cream and served with a few pieces of candied ginger or even pralines. All you need to think about is roasting. If you roast it, you can mash it with a little of your onion and pancetta, all caramelized and gorgeous and serve it as a side with a pork loin or you can eat it right off the tray, or you can smooth it into a soup and serve it with either string beans and garlic and a good piece of country ham, or a mushroom and mascarpone frittata with parmesan and arugula or (my favorite) broccoli rabe, boiled for just a few minutes in salted and oiled water and then sauted with garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and finally tossed with fresh croutons until the croutons are perfectly toasted.
Turn the oven on to 375 degrees. It’s better to buy 2 small squash instead of one huge one, because the big ones tend to be mealy. Cut off the very top and bottom and then cut the whole thing in half. With a flat side on your cutting board, remove all of the skin with your butcher knife. If it’s easier, you may want to cut it into 4 pieces so that you have more control with the knife. Remove the seeds with the spoon. Once you have it peeled and seeded, cut into small cubes. Roll them onto a sheet pan. Toss them with your best olive oil and season with salt. Roast until they are soft and delicious.

Meanwhile, dice a medium onion and cook with a few cloves of garlic and a few red pepper flakes until the onion is soft, about ten minutes. Add a few sprigs of marjoram or thyme or even rosemary. Season with salt. Add three small potatoes that have been peeled and diced. Saute those with the onion until they begin to stick to the pan. Add homemade chicken stock or water to the pan, just until the water covers the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook over a low flame until the potatoes are soft. Add the squash. Puree all of this in the food processor until COMPLETELY SMOOTH. The smoothness is really important to this soup. You are looking for velvet. Get it back into the pan when you are done, and add a little more stock or water to right before the consistency you are looking for. Finish with a spill of heavy cream. The scrubbed rind from an end of Parmigiano Reggiano is great in this, just simmering away with the potatoes while they are cooking to give them flavor. Grate in a little nutmeg, and taste for salt. If you need, you might want to add a little more cayenne, but go sparingly. Serve in dishes with grated parmsan and a tiny spill of olive oil. If you don’t make the broccoli rabe with croutons, serve with a crouton right in the soup.

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