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Winter is rumored to have just arrived. With a teasing of light snow on the mountain tops late last week and howling wind today, the mercury is taking the first real nosedive of the season. Its not even Halloween yet.  Time to fight back with a can crock pot of Whupp-Ass!

A friend asked for a crock pot recipe and I really wanted to get her something fairly easy that would not require Valium training wheels or a culinary degree to pull off. And it had to not suck. Taking a cue from my current cooking class curriculum, I came up with this belly pleaser.

I particularly like how the bay leaves play off the vanilla (Ever really smell a fresh bay leaf? It smells like eggnog. No shit!) and how the maple syrup brings up the squash just a little more than the fruit or even the stock aroma.

 

1 butternut squash*, about 3 lbs

1 large or two small Jonagold apples, peeled and grated

1 large red Cascade pear, grated, skin left on

1/3 cup Pinot Grigio

4 cups vegetable stock*, unsalted, hot

3-4 tablespoons real, dark maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or 1 tablespoon pure extract)

1/4 cup plain almond milk (or half and half)

2 bay leaves

Black pepper and kosher salt to taste



First thing in the morning, heat up a crock pot to HIGH. Place grated apple and pear in the pot and add the wine. Cover the pot and let it come to a nice bubbly boil. Stir once to blend the ingredients and continue to cook for 3-4 hours, until the mixture is a light caramel brown and slightly thick. It should taste fantastic. Remove and keep crock pot hot.
Around lunchtime, heat oven to 350, cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on a sprayed baking pan. Bake until squash is soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool before scooping flesh from the skin.
Run the fruit through the food processor and if you want to avoid the grit from the pears, run the puree through a strainer (You’ll thank me). Put the puree back into the crockpot. Puree the squash and add it to the crock pot. Mix in three cups of stock or more, to the texture you like. Add bay leaves, vanilla bean paste, pepper, about a teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Let this simmer on high for another hour until the bay is infused into the soup.

Before serving, add a bit of almond milk or half and half to the soup- a little at a time. Adjust your salt and maple syrup levels after you add extra liquid. Be judicious with the dairy fat, though, it will totally dumb down all the delicate flavors if you add more than a few tablespoons, and you will have to fight to re-balance it.
Best by the mugful with a warm dog on your feet. Serves4-6 people, its vegan and really low fat (should you give a rip about that sort of thing) if you bag the half and half .

*Alternatives:

You can use 2- 15 ounce cans of pumpkin puree if you are pressed for time. It will need a bit more sweetening up and I recommend using Agave nectar for a light touch.

You might also find apple and pear sauces at the grocery, but they still need to be caramelized. To cheat, grab a jar of Knudsen’s apple butter (use half the small jar) and a can of Goya pear nectar. I’d still strain the pear nectar, though. That stuff is gritty like a litter box.

I have a new fascination with Trader Joes’ Low Sodium Vegetable Stock packets. It beats wondering what the hell to do with an unfinished box of stock, and it also is good for making up for a half empty box as well. Bear in mind, it will darken your end product, as it is very rich. I do make my own stock, in case you were wondering.

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