Being married to a chef has its ups and downs. The upside is pretty obvious — he makes amazing, creative and delicious food. But considering I rarely see him (this would be the downside), I’m certainly not dining on homemade, perfectly plated 10-course meals all week long.
In fact, most nights I do all of the cooking, leaving him a plate of food for when he gets home around midnight. Even on the days when he’s off work — in the industry this is almost always Sundays and Mondays for chefs — he is often too exhausted to cook (yet another reason I’m endlessly grateful for the kick ass taco cart right by our house).
However, over the past few weeks he has been wooing me with fantastic Monday night meals. One of my recent favorites included a plate full of tender delicata squash in agrodolce sauce (an Italian version of sweet and sour made with sugar and vinegar), beets with pickled peppers and ricotta salata and hand torn pasta in a Parmesan brodo. Yeah. It’s serious.
While everything was incredible, my favorite dish of the evening was the delicata. The tang from the agrodolce wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sultanas and pepitas added a bit of autumn swagger. It was also a pleasant change to the overly sweet squash recipes that are ubiquitous this time of year.
The best part of this dish is that it comes together in less than an hour. For reals. I texted my husband for the recipe around 5pm on Friday and by 5:45 I was taking pictures of it. And it makes an excellent side dish to just about anything — a crisp roasted chicken or a nice, juicy pork rack would work particularly well.
Delicatas, on their own, seem to be enjoying a bit of trendiness lately, which means that they are easily found. On top of their mellow flavor, I love that they don’t need to be peeled. When I discovered this tidbit years ago, it was all I need to become a die-hard delicata fan. I’ve struggled with enough large butternut squashes to last me a lifetime.
This is the season of the delicata — embrace it with this tickle-your-tastebuds dish. It’s sure to become an autumn favorite.
(My Husband’s Rockin’) Delicata Agrodolce
Serves 2-4, depending on accompanying dishes
- 1/2 cup of frozen pearl onions, thawed
- 1 Medium-large delicata squash, washed thoroughly, split lengthwise, cleaned of pulp and sliced into half rings, about 1/2 inch thick
- 2 cloves of garlic, slivered
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (used in 3 separate doses)
- 1/8 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup fruity vinegar (muscatel, sherry, banyuls are our favorites)
- Kosher salt, pepper, large flake sea salt
- 1-2 TBS fresh thyme, picked
- 5-6 TBS pepitas, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, lightly oil and season the pearl onions. Pop into the oven on a parchment-lined sheet pan to get some color. Once they are golden brown and fairly tender, toss the squash in the bowl with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook until barely tender, maybe 5-6 minutes. They will continue cooking on the stove top so don’t worry if the vegetables are still al dente.
Remove the sheet pan from the oven and transfer items to a large skillet (I started in the sheet pan just so the vegetables could spread out and roast rather than just steam).
Over medium heat, add the rest of the olive oil, stirring gently to incorporate. Add the slivered garlic, again stirring to combine, being careful not to break up the squash.
Add the sugar, vinegar, sultanas and half of the picked thyme. Cook, stirring or gently shaking the pan often to avoid burning, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup. This could take up to about 10 minutes. Squash should be tender by this point.
Taste, add seasoning and maybe a touch more vinegar if it still need oomph.
Plate up, getting the last bits of the sticky sweet and tart sauce. Garnish with pepitas, remaining thyme and crunchy salt.