M. Andrew Gordon

Japonesa Squash + A Few Other Things = Perfect Autumn Meal

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on October 16, 2009 at 10:07 am

First, I want to say that this recipe was unnecessarily complicated because of a desire to use up some ingredients on hand.  I will discuss how it can be simplified but decided to include the recipe as it was made for the sake of integrity.  While I will try to not often pat myself on the back, this turned out to be quite good.  But what I am most proud of is with this is having created an incredibly flavorful stew/soup without having to add much in the way of spices or herbs.  Instead, all of the flavors come together and complement everything else, needing only a hit of salt and pepper to work.  I have to say I impressed myself.

Besides being delicious and, bacon excluded, not terribly unhealthy, what I like best about this dish is how flexible I think it could be.  It is substantial enough that you could omit the chicken altogether if such were your inclination.  So at that point, it’s only a step or two away from being all vegetables.  If you leave the bacon out, I would add a dash of butter to increase the richness.  Or maybe replace a cup of the stock with coconut milk and a teaspoon or two of curry powder.  You could use carrots if you had them and not parsnips or just use them anyway.  You could replace the squash with any gourd, I suspect, although I would think you might want to add some honey or brown sugar if using something like a butternut.  The japonesa* and kabocha squashes are particularly sweet, so in my estimation they do not need any additional sweetening in a dish like this.  The point in all of this is that this could be a very flexible recipe.

*Japonesa squash are dark green with a warty, bumpy exterior and are related to the slightly more common kabocha.  I can find them at my local market but if they are not available, try a buttercup or butternut instead.  Or even a sugar pumpkin.

The cascabel peppers do a suitable job of adding just enough spiciness to this.  They are a mild chile pepper so not much in the way of heat is contributed to the stew.  If you can not find cascabel peppers, I would look to use a single Anaheim pepper, perhaps. You could omit it entirely but I would strongly discourage it.  As another option, a couple of teaspoons of chipotle puree could also be used in place of the peppers.

IMG_2964As for why I described this as being unnecessarily complicated, it is because of the two different cuts of chicken used.  While some might argue that is a strength, and I would concur, it does add additional steps in the cooking.  Honestly, you can use any piece of a chicken – breast, thigh, drumstick, wings even (though the meat yielded from most wings is insubstantial).  This also could be a good candidate for roasting a whole chicken and pulling the meat off, adding as much or as little as you like the stew.  If you really wanted to save time and effort, you could even just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket and use that.

In wrapping this up, I am curious to hear how others might define a dish like this.  By definition, I don’t believe this can be considered a stew because the meat is not really stewed, or braised.  It’s cooked separately by two different methods and then added to the rest of the ingredients.  But given the consistency and richness, it simply begs to be called a stew.  Any thoughts out there on this?

Pairing: I found the Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout by Cape Ann Brewing to be quite good alongside this stew.  There is just enough pumpkin flavor and spice to complement the flavors of the squash and sweet potato, but also the expected roasted malt flavors of a stout to offset the richness of the stew.

In addition, we poured a Pretty Things Brewing St. Botolph’s Town with dessert, which may or may not have been an attempt at a sweet apple gnocchi over vanilla ice cream.  No recipe yet, because it realistically needs work.  If anyone has thoughts on how to make apple gnocchi as a dessert, please do tell.  Expect to hear more on this in the future regardless.

Squash and Root Vegetable Stew

  • 1 japonesa or kabocha squash, halved
  • 5 or 6 chicken drumsticks, skin on
  • 2 sweet potatos, scrubbed and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 red onions, one diced and one cut in half and each half cut into eighths
  • ¼ lb bacon, diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise and sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cascabel peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.  Place one halve of the squash in an eight-inch baking dish.  Add about 1 cup of water and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until squash is soft.
  2. In heavy pot or dutch oven, heat one to two tablespoons olive oil.  Season drumsticks with salt and pepper and brown in the pot, 4 to 5 minutes.  Place drumsticks on a baking sheet, cover, and place in oven for 40 minutes or until juices run clear.  When cool, pull meat from bones and reserve.
  3. Peel the remaining halve of the squash and chop into ½ chunks.  Combine squash, sweet potato, parsnips, and quartered red onion.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Stir to coat vegetables and place on two baking sheets.  Vegetables should be in a single layer.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning vegetables to cook evenly.
  4. In heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon to paper towel-lined dish.
  5. Cook chicken breasts in the bacon fat until browned, 3 or 4 minutes, and remove.
  6. Add onion, garlic, and peppers and cook until soft and onion begins to caramelize.  Transfer to food processor, scoop out flesh from the cooked squash and add to the processor along with 2 cups of the stock.  Puree until mixture is smooth and pour back into pot/dutch oven.  Alternatively, you could use an immersion blender for this step.
  7. Stir in remaining stock, chicken, and roasted vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.

Chef’s Tip If you want this to be even thicker, simmer a little longer as the cubed squash will start to break down and contribute to a thicker consistency.

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  1. Wow! You were busy this week! The stew and the cranberry/beet dish sound amazing!

  2. Matthew,
    Enjoyed a butternut squash puree soup on Sunday with a Guiness. I followed that by a prime rib roast with mushroom gravy, haricot vert, a baked potato, and an Italian Cabernet Merlot. I finished with French-pressed coffee and orchard-fresh apple crisp.
    Aaah…Sabbath dining…Gotta love a holiday every 7 days.

  3. JA – yeah, it was a good week.

    Andrew – I’m duly impressed with the feast and thinking that the only way you could improve would be to add a few cranberries to the apple crisp. What can I say, I’m a little bit biased.

  4. Touché

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