Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yes, I'm a messy cook

 I am a messy cook. I can't help it. I know, I know, cooking professionally it's all about being super clean, keeping your station clean. Even at my best, in the professional kitchen, keeping clean took major effort. But even then, there was a dishwasher. Someone whose job it was to wash the dishes! There's a difference between keeping your station clean and having to keep your whole kitchen clean, all dishes included.
That said, I don't even manage to keep my station clean when I cook at home. The whole kitchen=my station when I'm home alone and, while this is wonderful (definitely not too many cooks in my kitchen!), it also means Meet the Mess.
Aside from the mess, I'd say I make a mean dinner. Or breakfast. Or baked good any damn day of the week I please. So there.
Tonight, as I left my unpaid "job" (part of my training) at a psychiatric hospital, I really wanted to go for a bike ride. But when I got home, all I wanted to do was make dinner! So I did. And the royal We (I) made a terrific squash gratin, also from Deborah Madison's Savory Way cookbook.
You know, usually I don't stick to recipes (and no, I didn't stick to hers tonight completely), but when I'm falling in love with a cook book again (gosh, now I feel guilty. I actually bought this book for my mother last April for her birthday and then sneakily stole it the other week), I like to try to replicate things my way.
Anyway, the weather has been cold in New York, and I've just really wanted food I can eat hot from the oven, warm up for lunch the next couple of days, and really just enjoy comfortably. With this dish (and the one from the last post), I feel great cooking and eating. I know what's going into each dish, and all of the ingredients are from the market or friends' farms, which is just amazing to me. It's comforting in so many ways.

Squash Gratin
olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
6 sage leaves, torn into pieces
1 bay leaf
1 butternut squash, peeled (a peeler works well), seeded, and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 c shredded or cut up swiss or colby cheese (anything, as long as it's not too sharp, will do)
1 c warm whole milk (I switched to Milk Thistle, in case you're interested)
about 3 slices of stale bread, crusts ok as long as they're not rock hard

In a bit of olive oil in a skillet, heat onion and herbs. Cook on low-medium heat for about 15 min. Remove bay leaf. Set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil, salt it generously, and add squash. Return to boil and simmer 2 min. Drain, but BE SURE TO SAVE SOME WATER FROM THE POT. Use some of this water to soak the bread. I did this in a bowl. Then I removed the bread pieces and removed the hardest crust pieces. Squeeze excess water from the bread if you can. Chop with knife.

Butter a square baking dish (or gratin pan, if you have one), and layer onions in bottom. Layer squash on top. Cover with cheese. Pour milk on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Distribute bread pieces on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 30 min. Uncover and cook another 30 min.

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