Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gnocci with Roasted Butternut Squash in a Sage-Brown Butter Sauce

     Yet again, we have Sycamore to thank for culinary inspiration.  Once in a great while, when we can spend just a bit more than usual, we go up to Syc and get a couple of small plates and a drink for a light dinner.  Last year when we were there, Jess tried their gnocci with butternut squash and loved it, so we figured we'd try to come up with something in the same ballpark.  Neither of us could remember what exactly it was like, but regardless, the following recipe turned out to be delicious! 

Squash--And one of my sweetest kitchen gadgets...thanks Grandma, we miss you!
    Start by peeling and chopping a butternut squash that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-3.5 lbs.  We used mostly the neck from ours, so that we could cut even pieces and didn't have to mess with the seeds and the guts much.  Dice into fairly even squares around 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.  Don't worry about getting them perfect; you just want them to cook evenly, and the even cut makes the dish look really nice too.

Use approximately 1oz of extra-virgin olive oil and toss well to coat.  Sprinkle with 2 generous pinches of sea salt, and a few turns of freshly-cracked black pepper and mix well.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and roast for around 30 minutes at 375.  When they have about 10 minutes to go, start working on the butter sauce and gnocci. 

How you like your squash determines how long you cook them.  We like ours fork-tender, but not mushy.  We cooked them for 23-25 minutes, and decided that the slightly larger pieces weren't quite as done as we'd like.  Thirty minutes would probably get them to just about where we like them.  When the squash come out of the oven, they can be starting to turn light golden-brown, but you don't want them burnt at all. 

   The gnocci themselves only take about 2 minutes of boiling to cook and need to be sauced pretty much immediately, so save them until last.  Chop 1/4 of a large onion into strips about 1-1.5 inches long, and thinly slice about 20 sage leaves (note: we would prefer a bit more sage flavor, so maybe make this 30 if you like sage).  Place 4 TBSP butter (hey, I never said this was healthy) into a medium frying-pan on low-medium heat until just melted.  Add 1 TBSP crushed garlic and the onions, and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes.  Turn to medium-high, until the butter just starts to brown.  Throw in the sage, kill the heat, and stir to brown the butter, making sure not to burn it.  When you start browning the butter, throw your gnocci into boiling water.  Our brand took about 2 minutes to finish; you can tell they're done when they float to the top. Add the diced squash and the gnocci to a large bowl, pour the butter sauce over the top, and mix well.  Plate, dust with some Parmigiano Reggiano, and you're good to go!

     In the end, we really couldn't remember what Syc's version tasted like, or even if it had brown butter and sage, for that matter, but we must have gotten the idea from somewhere.  At any rate, this turned out really nice.  It's rustic, yet somewhat elegant, and is filling without being heavy.  We wouldn't change much for next time, except maybe to cook our squash a bit longer, use a touch more sage (this was really aromatic but the sage flavor wasn't very strong), and perhaps garnish with a few toasted walnuts.  Either way, we can call this one a success.

Serve with a crisp, dry white wine

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