A great side dish with legs!

Sorry I haven’t written in a bit!–I’ve been working so hard, preparing and shooting new episodes of Baking Made Easy! Since I know that many of you (like me) are busy working, shopping (and schlepping) I wanted (so much) to teach you a really delish side dish–that’s easy enough to gussy up a soothing weeknight meal and also gorgeous enough to earn a place on even the most “special occasion” menu.

So, since at this particular moment—with time constraints as they are–and with my wanting to connect to you at the risk of being quick–(and admitting that there probably won’t be much literary poetry in this blog) I trust that the food I’m about to share will take care of everything I’m lacking.

I am now going to show you how to make roasted chunks of butternut squash, tossed with garlic, olive oil, curry and seedless grapes–SO GOOD and would be perfect with a holiday roast turkey or goose (or a weeknight roast chicken)! And then, I’m going to show you how to use the beginnings of one recipe (the seasoning base for the squash) to create a soothing main dish (an herb-roast chicken) as well as give you lots more ideas for other ways to use the same seasoning mixture.

First, let’s take care of the squash …

You have a choice–You can either start out with a whole butternut squash, which looks like this:

Or, you can also buy squash already peeled and cut into squares, which looks like this:

If you decide to work with whole squash, just peel it with a sturdy swivel vegetable peeler, then cut the squash in half, vertically…

Use a spoon to remove the seeds and any stringy stuff…

And cut the squash into cubes (not too small, not too big)–like this…

Then toss in some seedless grapes. (Don’t be shy–you’ll be amazed at how unusually delicious they are after roasting!)

Per each squash, you’ll use 1 1/2 to  2 cups grapes.

To season the squash and grapes, mix a few cloves of minced garlic with some extra-virgin olive oil, some crushed red pepper flakes and ground black pepper, to taste.

I suggest you make a larger batch than you’ll need for this recipe (so, to what’s above, just add more garlic, more olive oil and more black pepper).

Now, spoon some of the garlic oil onto the squash and grapes–enough to lightly but evenly lubricate them.

Now sprinkle on some curry (onto the squash and grapes, not into the garlic-oil). Again, don’t be afraid–Curry and butternut squash have a natural affinity for each other. Having said this, if you’re not sure about your audience, go slow–And, then after you hear raves at the table, you’ll can be more generous the next time around.

By the way, curry is not one spice–it’s actually a blend of over twenty herbs and spices–and each “blend” varies in taste and color. Some are quite sweet and others are more hot. My favorite is Madras curry, said to have originated in South India (and the blend I like is produced by Sun Brand) which tastes bright and hot and is, to me, just perfect.

Add salt and pepper and then use your hands to rub everything together.  Pile onto a shallow baking sheet that’s been first lined with several sheets of aluminum foil and rubbed with olive oil. Scrunch up the sides of the foil, which will help create low walls to contain the squash and grapes.

Season the top with more salt, pepper and curry, then cover with another sheet of foil  (dull side up, so you don’t deflect heat away from the pan) …

And use scissors or a skewer to poke holes in the foil, which will help hot air enter to soften the squash during the first half of the roasting process. This “set up” can be done early in the day and kept at a comfortable room temperature.

When getting ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450F.

(Oh, and don’t throw away any extra garlic oil. Here’s where the squash recipe grows legs!)

A roast chicken recipe moment…

Sorry for the digression but I can never resist an opportunity to teach yet another way to season, sear and roast a chicken…(I’ll be quick about it!)

Add some chopped thyme and rosemary to the garlic-oil (fresh is best, here…) and use it to rub on a raw chicken! If you need to add more oil, do it now.  (This is why I didn’t add curry to the seasoning mixture for the squash–I wanted to keep it as neutral as possible.)

Place a 3 to 3 1/2 pound chicken into a bowl lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle all sides the bird with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then rub the herb-garlic-oil liberally onto the skin (all over).

The bird should glisten. Tie the legs shut with kitchen twine. Add more salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until 30 minutes to 1 hour before roasting. To get ready to roast, preheat the oven to 375 to 400F.

By the way, any extra herb-olive oil mixture can be refreshed with more oil, garlic, herbs etc. refrigerated and used the next night to season lamb chops, whether just for yourself or, as below indicates, for a crowd…

Or to season and roast whole fish, like these sea bass…

How about poached, seasoned and roasted crinkle-cut potato wedges…

See how that first garlic-oil mixture now has many uses! )

Anyway, back to finish up the bird. and then the squash..

Brown the seasoned chicken on the stove, in a heavy (and hot) nonstick skillet (no need to add extra fat because the bird is lubricated) and, after it’s brown on all sides (turning with tongs), over high heat, take the chicken out of the pan. If the pan isn’t able to go directly into the oven, switch to one that is. If the first pan is oven-proof, wipe it out and stick the chicken back into it. Squeeze some lemon over the top (1/2 juicy lemon per chicken) and, if desired, scatter some drained capers around the bird. Pour 1 generous cup of chicken stock into the pan. You can also quarter a couple of medium yellow onions and large button mushrooms and rub some garlic-herb-oil on them, and then scatter the vegetables around the chicken (with the lemon and capers). Roast in a preheated 375F oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until golden, crisp and the juices in the thigh run clear when pierced. (Add a bit more stock while roasting, if it seems to have evaporated.)

Herb-Roast Chicken.

Ok, now let’s finish the squash…

After cooking at 450F (covered) for 20 minutes, remove the top foil and allow the squash and grapes to roast another 20 minutes, or until blistered and looks like this…

Butternut squash, roasted with grapes, garlic, olive oil and curry.

Above are all dishes that will produce heaven on a plate.

The Point: Whether cooking on a random Tuesday night or for a major holiday, wanting something nurturing and delicious is always the goal–And, since it’s so easy to get bored with the same old side dishes, I thought I would show you something new and really yummy–and in such a way that would help you to understand the fluidity that’s inherent in the art of cooking. When assembling a side dish or a main dish protein (using one seasoning mixture), you can also create the seasoning base for several other entirely different dishes. So, think BIG and conceptually, when cooking. Ask yourself “How can I give this “mixture” legs?” Meaning, If you make this now, what else can it be used for, whether in this same meal–or when kept refrigerated and used throughout the week? This is how to not just be a good cook–but also a smart one.


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