Introducing Stuff to Put in Your Mouth Fridays. Every week my girlfriends and I get together to watch NBC’s Thursday night line-up, drink some delicious concoction, take turns cooking dinner. I am going to attempt to collect, report, and review the recipes here, partly for your enjoyment but mostly for my own.
For the inaugural recipe of 2010, I present to you:
Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon with Pasta
Original recipe from Cooking Light
Bad Mutha Fudruckin’ rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
I guess I should start out by mentioning that the theme for this month is “Jump-start January,” or as I like to think of it, “Just Can’t Fit Into My Jeans Anymore January.” I still don’t understand how a pasta recipe with bacon could possibly end up in a magazine entitled “Cooking Light,” but I guess that’s just my ignorance showing.
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
8 ounces uncooked mini penne pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Several days before you plan on cooking this dish: Buy the largest butternut squash you see at Harris Teeter. Parade it proudly around the store, sure in the knowledge that anyone who sees you with said squash is completely unaware that you have absolutely no clue how to transform the decidedly phallic-shaped gourd into anything remotely edible. Upon returning home, call your mother in a mild panic. Breathe.
Following your mother’s advice, stab the squash a few times with a knife and microwave it for a few minutes. With your sharpest knife, hack cut the squash into 1 inch thick slices. Cry. Continue cutting, dicing the slices into vaguely cube-like shapes, taking breaks as needed. After you’ve cubed all of the squash, or an hour has elapsed (whichever comes first), store the cubed squash in a gallon-size resealable bag and put it in the refrigerator. Realize you have much, much more than 3 cups of cubed squash. Decide you don’t care.
Fix yourself a drink. Repeat as necessary. Go to bed.
3 hours before dinner: Gather all of your ingredients. Load all of the ingredients into your car, and travel to your host’s house. Upon arrival, realize you have forgotten the flour, the Parmesan, and a casserole dish. Resign yourself to a return trip. Inquire as to whether your host might have the items in question. She does! Rejoice.
Combine 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and oregano-substituted-for-rosemary in a very large bowl. Worry that the pitifully small mound of spices is no where near enough to season the mountain of squash you’ve spread out on a foil-lined cookie sheet (greased with cooking spray). Double the amount of spices. Lightly spray the cubed squash with cooking spray and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Put in a pre-heated 450° oven. Briefly consider setting a timer for 45 minutes, but decide you’ll just keep an eye on it.
Eat a jello shot.
Thinly slice 2 large shallots. Cry–but only because of the shallots, not because you’ve just realized you are less than half-way through the recipe.
Locate a cheese grater and start grating the sharp provolone. After you’ve shredded about half, enlist a dinner guest to shred the rest. Check on the squash. Wander about your host’s apartment aimlessly until all the cheese is grated. Set it aside.
Cook 6 slices of bacon on the stove top. Say a brief prayer of gratitude that your host has disconnected her fire alarm. Turn the exhaust fan to high. Decide that you are going the double the recipe as written, as the 6 slices of bacon do not seem adequate to the the sheer mass of squash happily roasting in the oven. Cook the entire package of bacon.
Check on squash; noting that it is “tender and lightly browned” as indicated in the original recipe, remove it from the oven and set it atop the stove. Eat test a few cubes for done-ness. Test a few more. Turning back to the task at hand, discard the bacon grease, reserving just enough to coat the pan. Sauté the shallots in the reserved bacon grease until tender. Eat a bit more squash. Realize you’ve forgotten to cook the pasta and hurriedly set a salted pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
Tackle your least favorite part of the recipe – making the cheese sauce. Locate what appears to be flour in the pantry. Measure out a cup. Learn that you have measured out a cup of pancake mix. Laugh. Wonder if pancakes would be have been a better choice. Allow your host to locate and measure out a cup of flour. Consult the recipe just in time to realize you only need 1/2 cup of flour. Mix flour and salt together in a medium pot. Set pot on medium heat and splash in milk clumsily while whisking wildly gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1 (or 2) minutes until thickened. Note that roux is very thick. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir. Realize you’ve only added 1/2 of the necessary milk. Return sauce to heat and add 2 additional cups of milk. Breath a sigh of relief as it incorporates without a fight. Add pasta to cheese and stir to coat.
Mix squash, crumbled bacon, and shallots together in a large bowl. Into greased casserole dish, dump 2/3 of the pasta/cheese mixture. Top with 2/3 squash mixture. Dump in remaining pasta and cheese, and top with remaining squash mixture. Wonder if you shouldn’t have said fuck this layering shit and just mixed it all together. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and stick in the oven for 10 or so minutes.
Fix yourself a drink.
Hastily assemble a salad and announce that dinner is ready.
And that’s it, my friends. After all that work, dinner was just so-so. The cheese sauce was pretty bland. Honestly, the best part of the meal was the bacon. Come to think of it, the squash was pretty awesome, too. If I were to make this again, I’d just toss the squash, bacon, and shallots with the pasta and some olive oil and omit the cheese sauce altogether; maybe I’d sprinkle some of the cheese on top.