There would be a rebellion in our family if our Thanksgiving menu did not include certain dishes. Everyone expects herb-roasted turkey with shallot pan gravy and cornbread dressing prepared with leeks, onions, and sweet peppers. My spouse adores the glistening cranberry chutney I’ve made for close to two decades, and our grandkids look forward to decadent pies and other sweets to end our feast.
When it comes to side dishes, though, I can vary the offerings without a major protest. This year there will be tender green beans sprinkled with crispy bacon, green onions, and parsley along with buttermilk mashed potatoes with grainy mustard. I’m also adding roasted butternut squash and pears with blue cheese and walnuts, a glorious fall dish that bursts with vibrant fall colors and tastes.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been tweaking this new dish so that it is fail-safe for Thanksgiving cooks. You simply roast a pan of diced butternut squash and another of diced pears, both flavored with curry-scented olive oil. When tender, the squash and pears are tossed with a hint of honey and sherry, spooned into a baking dish, and garnished with toasted walnuts and crumbled blue cheese. And, here’s the best part, this dish, easily transported, can be completely assembled several hours ahead, and needs only minutes of reheating in the oven. A single recipe serves six, but you can double of triple it as needed. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the baking sheets
3 slightly under-ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears
2 tsp curry powder, plus a generous 1/4 tsp extra for sprinkling
2 1/2 to 3 lb butternut squash cut into 1-in cubes to yield 6 cups (see note)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup creamy blue cheese such as Bleu d’Auvergne or Gorgonzola dolce, scrumbled
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (see note)
1. Arrange racks at center and lower third positions, and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking sheets and have ready a shallow 2-qt casserole.
2. Quarter pears lengthwise and core, but do not peel. Cut each quarter crosswise into 1-in cubes (If desired, cut one quarter lengthwise into 1/2-in wedges to roast and use as a garnish on top of the casserole.)
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the curry powder and olive oil. Add the squash to a large mixing bowl, toss with half of the curry oil, and spread in a single layer on one of the baking sheets. Add the pears to the same bowl, toss with the remaining curry oil, and spread in a single layer on the other baking sheet. Salt and pepper the squash and the pears, and sprinkle each with some of the 1/4 tsp remaining curry powder.
4. Place the pan with squash on the lower rack and the one with pears on the other. Bake until the squash is just starting to brown and the pears are golden and both are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 30 to 35 minutes for each. (Watch carefully as the pears can take a shorter time depending on their ripeness.) Stir the squash and pears every 10 minutes to prevent sticking.
5. When done, transfer the squash and pears to the casserole. Whisk together the honey and sherry, and pour over the squash and pears, stirring gently to coat to well. Season with more salt if needed. Sprinkle with walnuts and blue cheese. (The dish can be prepared 5 hours ahead; leave loosely covered with plastic wrap at cool room temperature; reheat uncovered in a preheated 350 degree F oven until warm and cheese has started to melt, 10 to 15 minutes. Serves 6.
Note: Look for peeled butternut squash in the produce section of the supermarket, a great time saver. About 30 ounces peeled squash should yield 6 cups.
Note: To toast walnuts, spread them on a rimed baking sheet and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully so that they do not burn. Remove and cool.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013
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