Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

I bet you thought I’d abandoned cooking in favor of takeout, cookies and swanky restaurants.  Yeah, my waistline thought so too, but really it was just vacation and business travel and another quick vacation.  So now I’m back and I’m increasing my time in the kitchen in hopes of decreasing said waistline.  It’s kind of autumnal in the evenings these days and winter squash was on sale so a squash cassoulet sounded like just the thing.  This dish defines creamy, earthy yumminess.

Cassoulet was invented in the south of France.  And it’s not just a fancy way to say casserole.  Where I come from casseroles include ‘cream of something’ soup and/or a pasteurized cheese product of some kind.  Not so a cassoulet.  A cassoulet is a slowed cooked one pot dish with beans and meat.  Not a lot in the way of meat here, but lots of very flavorful elements.  The name should really be Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onion and Butternut Squash Cassoulet.  That would hit all of the time or labor intensive parts of this dish.

Roasting garlic is easy, but it takes about an hour so plan accordingly.  You’ll only use a quarter of the head for this, but worry not, roasted garlic can be stored.  You can either freeze it or keep it in a jar in the fridge.   If you go the fridge route put enough olive oil in the jar to cover the cloves.  It will keep about a month that way.  And you can use the oil in salad dressings and such.  Bonus!

Then it’s on to the caramelized onions.  These take about 30 minutes and they’re kind of a pain so do a whole bunch if you’re going to bother.  They’re good on everything.  Use them on burgers.  Use them to make an hors d’oeuvre with figs and Gorgonzola.  The whole deal here is that you sauté them low and slow to bring out the sugars in the onions.  Low and slow is the key.  If you try to speed up the process you’ll just end up with charred onions.   Charred onions have their place, but they are not a replacement for caramelized.  The good news is that these can be done ahead.

Now, the squash.  I’m always happier when recipes call for cooked winter squash.  Then you just have to de-seed them before roasting.  After that the heavy rind just peels away.  It works with acorn, butternut, pumpkin, whatever.  No reason to use canned or frozen winter squash.  Really.  But I digress.  This recipe calls for the squash to be peeled and cubed and then cooked in the dish with the other ingredients.  My advice.  Get a big knife.  And a smaller one.  You’ll need the big knife to quarter the squash.  You’ll need the smaller knife to remove the peel and cut the flesh into cubes.

Note that this is close to being a vegetarian recipe, but the pancetta is important.  Pancetta is a ham that is salt cured, but not smoked.  You can use bacon as a substitute if you’d rather.  It’s a lot cheaper than pancetta, but not quite as flavorful so you might need more than 2 ounces.  And it’s smoked so the taste will be different.  If you want to make this a completely vegetarian dish I suppose you could try using soy bacon, but I don’t want to know about that.  I might use a little more squash next time, but other than that no changes.

Good? Yes.
Easy? Time consuming to be sure.  And peeling a butternut squash can be a challenge the first time you do it.  Let’s call this intermediate.
Good for company? You bet.  Serve it with a bright citrus-y green salad to balance the earthy cassoulet.
Special shopping? Pancetta.

I only made half a recipe because that’s still four servings.  Seems like plenty.  I have adjusted the recipe below to reflect my changes.  The amounts are my only change.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

Ingredients

  • 1  whole garlic head
  • 2  ounces  pancetta, chopped
  • 1  cups  vertically sliced onion
  • 1/2  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1/2  tablespoon  white wine vinegar
  • 2+  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4  cup  organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried thyme
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1  (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • 2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap garlic head in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Set half of garlic pulp aside; reserve remaining garlic pulp for another use. Discard skins.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 25 minutes or until onion is very tender and browned, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Add garlic pulp, pancetta, squash, and next 6 ingredients (through bay leaf) to onion mixture, stirring well. Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; sprinkle evenly over squash mixture. Cover and bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until topping is browned. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley.

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One Response to “Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    sounds yummy and we both know i don’t like most veggies.

    for carmelizing onions – you can do a ton of them in the crock pot and then freeze them:) cheating – sure, but a lot less work.
    glad to have you back home!

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