LOST ITALIAN: Butternut Bleu Cheese Sauce a go-to for fall dining
FARGO — The winter squash season is upon us, and butternut is our personal favorite among the varieties currently in abundance. Butternut is known for its quirky shape, sweet, nutty flavor and versatility. We often enjoy it pureed in soups or roasted in the oven, and this week's pan-sauce recipe for Butternut Bleu Cheese Sauce gives us another way to showcase it in style.
In addition to having great flavor and brilliant color, butternut squash is also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium and antioxidants, as well as many other minerals and nutrients. While other squash varieties often have soft, stringy flesh, the butternut has a firm, dense texture that makes it ideal for sautéed dishes like this recipe.
This autumnal sauce features a medley of robust flavors, including butternut, bleu cheese and rosemary, which somehow soften and blend together into a savory and lush taste experience. It's a perfect complement with chicken or pork and can even be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days before serving.
Fresh rosemary pairs beautifully with butternut squash, and it's the key to this dish. Bleu cheese is another important component, and we prefer to use an Italian gorgonzola as it is creamier and not as pungently strong as other varieties, but any bleu cheese will suffice.
Thanks to the butternut's unique shape, all of its seeds are contained in the bottom half of the squash, while the top is solid flesh, making it ideal for dicing. And, unlike other squashes, the butternut has a thin skin which can be easily removed using a vegetable peeler.
Once peeled, the squash is diced and sautéed in liquid until tender, but not mushy, so that they retain their shape. Chicken stock and white wine are the main liquids used, while heavy cream, brown sugar and gorgonzola are added to build flavor and bring a luxurious richness to the sauce.
The starches in the squash will cause the sauce to naturally thicken as it cooks, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it becomes too thick, simply add some water, starting with a quarter-cup, until it reaches your desired consistency.
Roasted chicken, even from the deli's rotisserie, would be great with this sauce, but for an elegant presentation, we serve this dish over tender chicken breast prepared scaloppine style. The scaloppine method is achieved by using a mallet to pound the meat into thin cutlets, which are then dredged in flour and sautéed in hot oil, with a moist and tender result. For more information on this method, visit our AreaVoices blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.
This dish is simple, warm, elegant and so delicious that even our teenage son, who thinks he doesn't like squash, will eat it. That's a culinary win in our book.
Butternut Bleu Cheese Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
½ cup yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
2 cups butternut squash, diced
¼ cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup gorgonzola (or any bleu) cheese, crumbled
Salt to taste
In a medium or large pan, sauté the onions, garlic and butter over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir in the diced squash and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the wine, chicken stock and rosemary and simmer gently over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Whisk in the cream, gorgonzola and brown sugar until combined, and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes. Taste and add salt as desired, one pinch at a time. Serve spooned over chicken or pork cutlets or slices. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
• Low heat during the simmering steps will help prevent the bottom from burning.
• If making in advance, reheat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until sauce reaches desired temperature.