The incredible, edible.... acorn squash?
My roommate approached me last night with an interesting query: "How can I make a 5-course meal using acorn squash as a main ingredient in each course?"
As a preface to this question, my roommate is a first-year architecture grad student at the University of Minnesota. One of his first projects was to study the acorn squash and do various things with it - draw it, build a model using it, and now to cook with it.
I think it's an interesting challenge and really does mirror architecture in a lot of ways. That being said, he has to prepare 5 courses, each using the acorn squash, and present them to his class along with some sort of documentation of the cooking/tasting process (pictures, notes, etc.).
I know I can rely on my fellow Hounds for help with this one! Any brilliant ideas about the acorn squash? Anything terribly complicated would likely be thrown out the window since he has to prepare 5 courses. The finally project is due Monday.
Have at is! :)
Thanks for all the awesome ideas, Hounders. The roomie completed his project last night and made the following:
Orange-Glazed Grilled Acorn Squash (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_29212,00.html)
Acorn Squash and Apple Puree)
Pizza with Blue Cheese, Butternut Squash, and Fried Sage Leaves (only he subbed Acorn for Butternut))
We all agreed the Puree and Pizza were the best (we being myself, my boyfriend, the roommate and roomie's girlfriend). While the Glazed Squash was delicious, we later determined that was due mostly in part to the glaze itself. The actual squash was rather bland. We thought perhaps scoring the squash would allow for more of the glaze to settle in.
All in all, he did an excellent job. He found out the day before that he only had to bring in a few items and not the full 5-courses so those were the three he opted for.
My favorite recipe for Acorn Squash is very simple.
Preheat oven to 300
Cut squash in half (one half of a small one per person)Cut a small slice out of the bottom to make squash lie flat on baking sheet.
Into each half place 1 TBS heavy cream or Creme Fraiche , I TBS Maple Syrup, or Brown Sugar, small piece of Bacon (one -two inch strip.
Bake until tender. The ingredients will cook and caramelize to form a wonderful, flavor rich glaze.
I remembered another: Marcella Hazan has a recipe for pumpkin pizza. It is probably better with acorn squash. Basically, you bake a squash, coarsely puree the flesh, spread over a pizza dough, drizzle some olive oil, salt, pepper, hard cheese of your choice and some ham or sausage.
All I ever do is steam the thing, thusly.
-- Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
-- Lay each half cut side down and trim off some of the top and some of the bottom.
-- Cut each half crosswise into 3 or four pieces
This provides very pretty scalloped half-moons. They're easy to steam and easy to eat. You can divide up one squash among 2-8 people.
I had a spiced acorn squash risotto with virginia ham, served in the hollowed-out squash shells. I am struggling to remember where, but I think it was at Daniel (in NYC). Spicing was clove, cinnamon, allspice. Also had shredded ham.
I've made it several times since. If you google "acorn squash risotto" you'll find similar recipes.
Does he have to take all this food to class to present? This might be difficult given refrigeration issues, etc.
I'd suggest allowing the squash to play a supporting role in a couple of courses, or it might become boring/predictable.
Not that it would be original, but a departure from all the other pulp-based dishes the instructors and class will be seeing: use the roasted seeds
1) for garnish on veggie-based dish
2) as a main flavor element in a cracker for a non-squash soup, something light to act as a foil.
I like the idea for the fried strands as a garnish. Trying to think how you could use the beautiful deep green rind as a garnish, but don't garnishes have to be edible to make sense....? That gorgeous zig-zag is so architectural.
If he roasts or steams the squash in advance and makes a puree, it could be even easier to add to some dishes such as savory breads or biscuits, risottos, soft polenta and soups. Maybe he could make 4 of his courses in advance and demonstrate only one in class for dramatic impact. For a dessert I like the squash pie idea and would add a rice pudding with squash puree sweetened with maple syrup.
I agree that I hope he doesn't rely to heavily on outside help to complete this project. He's reatively savvy in the kitchen so already had some ideas in mind but I figured the extra inspiration couldn't hurt.
Ultimately, he'll be putting all of his dishes together himself so the help really stops at just giving him some ideas. The rest is up to him!
I hope that your roommate does well and that she does not rely too heavily on outside help for the project.
Given that this is an architectural class, I think it would be important to consider the shape and structure of the squash. Size and scale are also worth a ponder. At our local farm markets we enjoy a variety of differently sized acorn squash, some with solid green skins and others with a white speckled appearance.
Using the shells in the presentation may be worth considering. I frequenly make stuffed acrorn squash with ground veal, apples, onion, sage, currants and so on. That would make a predictable, but tasty main. Perhaps she can find very small squash and rather than halving them horizontally she could take a slice off of the pointy end for balance then cut of the stem end and hollow the squash vertically. A ring from another squash would be useful in stabilizing the dish. Better still deep fried rings from another squash could provide stabilization as well as a contrasting texture.
For dessert, she could adapt any of the many pumpkin dessert recipes: creme brulee, ice cream, cake, or a pretty cupcake would work nicely.
I expect that she'll want to begin with soup and use some roast squash in a creative salad made perhaps with quinoa or another whole grain. I also think that a savory flan could be very interesting.
Hope that helps -
2. Squash-filled pasta (pumpkin ravolis served in chicken broth over fresh sage leaves is molto tradizionale in Emilia-Romagna)
3. Poultry or pork (chops, rolled loin, braciole) stuffed, including squash.
4. Salad with roasted fall vegetables, including squash
5. Squash pie (a old New England favorite)
And none of this are simple baked acorn squash!