The star of dinner last night was a butternut squash and mushroom hash. There are just a few ingredients in the dish but you would not know that it started out so simply. The main flavour, besides the base of onions and leek is sage; most often used in gravies or with poultry – it is the main ingredient in a packaged poultry seasoning mix, the slight peppery flavour lends itself well to butternut squash. My mother has three gorgeous bushes of sage, a common green sage and a purple and variegated variety. The sage for this dish came from her garden; it is dried but still has a bit of body.
A few nights ago on Twitter there was something about people using whatever they happen to be drinking to deglaze the pan while cooking. This is something I always do; I suppose that’s my secret. If you see wine or beer or apple cider in a recipe, it’s probably because I have glass of it next to the cutting board. Each liquid adds its own qualities to the dish and of course there is that ever-present sugar that bubbles out of that liquid, buoyed by the flavours of the dish. The liquid for this dish was most of a lager and the neck of an apricot beer; there’s your very helpful measurement guideline. I added the beer gradually, the same technique used in risotto because I did not want the squash to lose its shape and the caramelizing I’d been careful to create with the onions.
The hash paired well against pork chops and tangy purple sauerkraut, hearty enough to fill our bellies as the snow swirled outside. The snow fell in clumps last night, whirling under streetlights and into the branches of trees, caught by the tendrils of stillness. The view this morning is a sea of white, clumps of snow caught in the bushes and the dried husks of Queen Anne’s lace.
Notes on the recipe: Our leeks tend to be about an inch in diameter, and I used a three-inch length of it. That roughly equals a handful in a half, just in keeping with my very exact measurements.
I used half of the bottom bulb of the squash. If you were to look at a butternut squash, this would no doubt make more sense. The squash I used was huge and has lasted muffins, quiche and this dish. There is still some left over.
The sage I use is in a particularly strange state because it was in a cup of water in the fridge and our fridge has temper control issues: It froze the water. So, the sage has been preserved/dried but it still has full flavour.
One onion, cut into chunky pieces
3 inches of leek, minced
15 oz/ 440 g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
6 white button mushroom, quartered
One beer – lager works well
Sage – see the note above. I won’t put a measurement for it for obvious reasons.
S & P to taste
1. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on medium heat until it slips easily across the pan.
2. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent and the juices begin to release. Add the leek at this point. Be careful at this point, leeks take three seconds to go from a lovely state of browned to charred black. If you start to feel a bit nervous about it, add a tablespoon of the beer and reduce the heat to low.
3. Add the mushroom and mix things up at this point. Allow the mushrooms to brown a bit and pick up the flavour of the onions.
4. Add the butternut squash and ¼ of the beer. Add half of your sage at this point. A pinch of salt and a few turns on the pepper mill. Cover to keep the moisture in. It takes approximately 35 minutes to cook the squash at a low (but still simmering) heat. Keep an eye on the pan and add liquid whenever you feel it is necessary. Halfway through the cooking process, add the rest of the sage.
Serve warm and enjoy.