Most of us think us think of apples as an “eat out of hand snack,” a mostly pastry kitchen ingredient or an ingredient used for pie fillings. Apples are actually one of the most versatile ingredients used in savory and pastry applications.
The crisp, tart apple combines well with herbs, onions and Autumnal squash.
Butternut Squash and Apple Ragout is a great example of this. The beautiful side dish can be made several days ahead of serving and can be served with chicken, beef or fish.
To add a certain “wow factor,” hollow out a small pumpkin and fill it with the cooked ragout. Lightly oil the pumpkin and reheat the ragout in a low oven at 300 F until it’s hot and the pumpkin is lightly browned.
Butternut Squash and Apple Ragout
2 red onions, julienne
2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
3 Honey crisp or other firm apple, cored and cut into dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon honey
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 ounce porcini mushrooms
1 bouquet garni (parsley stems, thyme sprigs, rosemary, sage, bay leaf)
1 cup peeled and sautéed until browned pearl onions*
1 cup mushrooms, sautéed
Kosher salt and pepper
Sauté the onions in a Dutch oven, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat until the onions are soft and quite brown (about 10 minutes).
Add the squash and continue sautéing until the squash is browned on all sides. Transfer the onions and squash to a bowl.
Continue sautéing all the vegetables and apples, adding more oil to the pan when necessary.
Add all the vegetables back to the pan and add the tomato paste and honey. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and continue cooking for two minutes.
Add the stock, porcini mushrooms and bouquet garni. Cover and cook in a preheated oven until the squash is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
*Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the onions, shallots or garlic in a heat proof colander or strainer. Place the strainer in the boiling water. Blanch the vegetables for two to three minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water (you want it large enough to accommodate the colander with the onions in it). Remove the colander from the boiling water and place it in the ice water. This process is called “shocking”. It stops the cooking process. Allow the onions to cool completely. Remove the onions from the water. Cut a small end from the tip off and the skin should slip right off.
*Chef’s tip: The task of peeling pearl onions, cipollini onions and shallots is enough to make anyone swear off of using these flavor-packed, gorgeous embellishments.A simple chef trick is to blanch them in boiling water first, plunge them into ice water (shock them) so you can handle them, and then their little “jackets” slide right off.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.