Thanksgiving was lovely, and now it’s on to the next thing, yes? This is how this time of year makes me feel: happy, so happy to be celebrating and cooking and gathering together, but then as soon as the dishes have been cleared it’s time to think about the next event/dinner/etc. I love that in a way: always planning and plotting. Yet also: whew.
I am currently sipping a late cup of coffee while listening the rain come down on the fire escape outside. My new ‘office’ is a little corner of our bedroom where I have squeezed in my desk, a gift from my parents ages ago. There’s a window in front of me as well as to my right; the one to my right is open a little and all I hear is drip-drip-drip. Atop the desk are piles of paper, my camera, a lamp, and a notebook that currently contains lists in various stages of completion. I’m staring down another article that is taking much longer than it should (photos are finished, however, which is nearly half the battle). I have a pot of minestrone soup going on the stove and a batch of flourless ginger cookies in the oven. I’m starting to think about lunch options.
I’m also contemplating taking the afternoon off and going for a rainy trek in Point Reyes to bid adieu to Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. and watch the fall on the redwoods in Samuel P. Taylor Park. Then again … there is that imminent deadline. And I have a wedding cake to start baking. Better to be ‘good’ and stay home.
As a consolation prize for applying myself to my tasks, I have the last of the roasted butternut squash macaroni and cheese I made last week for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner. The New York Times ran a story on ‘vegetarian comfort food’ that immediately caught my because there is little else I love more than vegetarian comfort food as this site no doubt proves. I’m also on a mission to convert DW to butternut squash, as he has an extreme aversion to orange vegetables (though will eat my pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies without issue and I think I did catch him eating his entire bowl of pumpkin-leek soup on Thanksgiving …), or at least the idea of them. Folding a roasted squash puree into mac and cheese seemed a good way to entice him into eating it.
It’s a simple enough recipe, just butternut squash roasted and pureed and folded into a cheese sauce that’s then draped over pasta and baked a little while longer. While the squash roasts, you can make the sauce and pasta, and the ‘active’ time is whittled down to about 20 minutes. It also makes an enormous amount: a family of four could get about two dinners out of this (for two people we had 2 dinners and lunches besides). I doctored up the recipe a bit, adding dried herbs, a bit more salt, and used whole wheat macaroni, which I personally prefer, and it’s worth clicking the link to see a few other recipes included in the article.
Hard to believe Thanksgiving was already over a week ago – the turkey leftovers (I went the Trader Joe’s pre-brined bird route this year, and a 14-pounder was done in about 3 hours; my tiny oven, occasionally the subject of much ire, never fails to astonish) are long since digested and I am starting to write up a menu for our holiday party in few weeks (flourless desserts, naturally, will feature). There is just one more month of 2012 – hold on. I aim to make it count.
Roasted Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese, via the New York Times
I made some changes to the Times’ recipe, most notably the inclusion of Grueyere cheese, which I love in macaroni and cheese. I also used extra sharp cheddar, as I have a penchant for very sharp cheese especially in recipes such as this one. We ate our servings with various vegetables – steamed broccoli, a salad, roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower – to feel a bit more virtuous in the health department.
Makes 10 generous servings.
1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 large butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 cups milk
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt (and to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme.
1. Roast the butternut squash: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and cook until soft all the way through, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool. When cooled, remove skin and place in food processor. Purée until smooth.
2. Make cheese sauce: Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour. Stir to make a roux and cook 3 minutes, stirring the entire time. Add 3 cups milk and stir until thickened. Add the rest of the milk and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add shredded cheeses and stir until melted. Stir in salt, pepper and dried herbs.
3. To assemble the dish: Place cooked macaroni in bowl. Pour in the cheese sauce over and add puréed butternut squash. Fold together. Place in a a large ovenproof dish and heat for 20 minutes at 350 degrees until it is hot through and slightly bubbly.