Sunday, October 13, 2013

the squash chronicles: Acorn

I've been on kind of a squash kick lately, partially because it's in season right now and partially because every time I come up with a better way of cooking / flavoring it than just the old stand-by "bake and then mash with sweet spices and butter", it makes me happy. To that end, today I decided to try something I HATED as a kid - acorn squash. There was just something about the texture of mashed acorn squash and the strange shade of tan it always ended up. Blech.

What I wanted was a way to make acorn squash likable again. I decided to try roasting it and see how it turned out. The results were quite tasty, and I think the texture would have been better had I roasted it on a larger pan so I had less overlap (less overlap means more squash touching the pan and getting all roasty-toasty. That's a legit technical term, BTW. Look it up). Acorn squash is super bland on its own - it doesn't even really have much inherent sweetness, at least not compared to something like butternut or kabocha. I jazzed it up with a little fresh rosemary and some shallots and the caramelizing there-of brought out some really nice nutty flavors.

I can safely say that I did NOT hate this acorn squash, and I'm looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow.

Squash! Not mashed!

The kale was quick-braised by rendering some chopped bacon in a pan, then pouring off all but about half a tablespoon of the fat, adding the chopped kale and about a quarter cup of chicken stock. I turned the heat to low, covered the pan tightly and let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a couple times in the middle. Crispy bacon was sprinkled over top at the very end so it wouldn't get soggy.

The pork was on sale last week at the grocery store and I got sucked in because it was a deal. I should have known better. It's a loin. See that ridge of fat across the top of the slices? That's all the fat there is on the entire roast. Some people may be into super-lean meat, but I am not one of those people. I'm pretty sure the only reason this didn't turn into a 5lb log of shoe leather is because a) it was one of the vacuum-packed ones from Smithfield and I think they inject salt solution into the meat as well as packing it in a kind of weak brine solution, and b) I cooked the meat at quite a low temperature (325 degrees). It wasn't terrible in the end - like I said, it stayed quite moist, and the dusting of thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper I gave it before roasting gave it decent flavor. I wish I had thought to marinate it for a while, though. Loin is just so bland. Oh, well. A cheap chunk of protein for lunches for the week isn't a bad thing!