Getting creative with side dishes for holiday get-togethers can sometimes be tedious. It can be so easy to grab that box of frozen mini quiches out of the freezer and call it a day. But Chef Linda Elbert of Mindful Cuisine is always thinking outside the box when it comes to spicing up your holiday sides.
Butternut squash can get a bad rap. One of the more overworked winter squashes, seeing it on another potluck table can garner a collective sigh. Chef Elbert took the plain, somewhat sweet, gourd and kicked it up a notch this season with Calabrian chilies.
The Calabrian Chili
Elbert explained why this chili is a bit more special than the rest for this recipe. “Calabrian chilies are a medium spicy chili that develop a smoky flavor when left to ripen on the vine,” she said. Find them in a jar at Williams Sonoma, already pureed in oil and easy to scoop them out with a spoon. Amazon also carries a variety of Calabrian chilies, some are whole (just puree or finely chopped them) and some are pureed. Caputos in Salt Lake City has fresh individual Calabrian chiles that could easily be minced and then sautéed in olive oil and add to the squash, she said. Or check out Anya’s Market in Park City for fresh and jarred chilles.
Can’t find the Calabrian chile? “As a substitute I would use of one of the local Chili Beak products. The spicy roasted chile flavor that uses chipotle chilies,”Elbert says. “They will add a smokey flavor and similar level of spice. Kind of takes the dish in a southwest directions but great and uses a local product”.
And who doesn’t love bacon? Or the fancier version, prosciutto. Adding this fatty, smoky meat will add rich and round flavor to the dish. Enjoy making this recipe for Mindful Cuisine’s butternut squash with prosciutto and Calabrian chilies and sharing at the table at your next holiday gathering.
Variation: If you have leftovers, make a puree in the food processor. Use as a topping for crostini toasts to make an appetizers. Heat in the the oven to warm. To serve add a bit of grated parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and Maldon or other flaky sea salt to serve.
- Makes 6 servings
- 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- Olive oil
- Salt and repper
- 4 ounces prosciutto
- 1 tablespoon chopped Calabrian chilies packed in oil (more or less to based on personal taste and the heat of your chilies)
- Parsley - finely chopped for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 500 F.
- Cut the squash in 2 pieces between the neck and the rounder bottom part where you will find the seeds. Peel the neck, slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick planks. Slice the planks into 1/2 inch thick strips and the then slice the strips into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel the rounder half then cut it in half and scrape out the seeds - a grapefruit spoon is a great tool for scraping out the seeds. This part of the squash is not as easy to get into perfect cubes. Just do your best cutting at 1/2 inch thick pieces then cubes.
- Toss the squash with enough olive oil to coat all the pieces. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and toss again.
- Spread in one layer on a baking sheet pan and cook about 15 minutes in a preheated 500 F oven. Toss the squash at least once during cooking. The squash is done when it is tender and has some browned and a few charred edges or sides. You can cook the squash ahead and reheat when adding prosciutto and chilies.
- Put the prosciutto slices on a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Turn the oven down to 400 F and cook the prosciutto until crisp and crumbly, about 5-7 minutes.
- Taste you Calabrian chilies and decide how much you want to use. Put the squash in a skillet, toss with the prosciutto and tablespoon (more or less to taste) of chopped Calabrian chilies. Heat through. Check seasoning. Put in serving dish and garnish with parsley.