Squash Agrodolce: Delicata done different

Delicata Squash Agrodolce

Delicata squash in agrodolce sauce, pepitas, pearl onions and sultanas.

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.

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The original dish — I subbed pearl onions for his cipollino. These are certainly more of a “statement” onion…

A simple dinner for two...

A simple dinner for two…

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.

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Cooking my way through A Girl and Her Pig: Adobo à la April

I have really been in love with April Bloomfield this year. It started with her Lyonnasise-style vinegar chicken recipe. I was so blown away by it that my husband bought me her cookbook as a gift. The first thing I made was her lentil and chickpea salad because it sounded so wonderful. The second thing I made was this recipe — her chicken adobo.

I think I really wanted to make it because it calls for chicken braised with copious amounts of garlic and vinegar, much like her other chicken recipe. However, this one also contains plenty of ginger and soy sauce, thus it has an entirely different (Filipino) spin.

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A pork chop recipe for anytime — no Hallmark holiday required!

Pork chops do not need to be special occasion. I know this. I have been eating pork chops with applesauce since I was a kid. Yet I was intrigued when I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit last July called Father’s Day Pork Chops. If I had known they would turn out this beautiful, I would have been making them all winter long. The story in the magazine did not do these things justice.

I guess the reason I hadn’t made these yet is that I rarely think to buy pork chops. I swing more in the easy direction of pork tenderloins. But my boss had bought a few sample loins from a farm nearby and had them cut into chops so we were all able to take a couple home. They was a mad dash to the cooler and out we walked with two fat, 12 oz bone-in chops in our hands.

My co-workers were full of talk about how they were going to prepare theirs, but I didn’t have any good ideas, figuring I’d dig through my binder of recipes at home. Two recipes caught my eye as I flipped through the pages looking for anything mentioning pork chops. I studied the first one, Roasted Pork Chops with Lemon, with interest and then confusion. I’m sure it’s delicious but it was literally roasted pork chops served with lemon wedges. I have no idea how that rated good enough to keep. Maybe there’s a recipe for a chocolate coconut pie on the other side of the page?

The second recipe was for the Father’s Day Pork Chop. And even though it seemed decadent and not-at-all healthy, it beckoned me to give it a shot. After all, a fried pork chop would be a nice treat for my husband to find when he came home from work. A night off from chicken — wooo!

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Stay Away, Vampire! Chicken

Now I could have called this dish by its rightful name, vinegar-braised chicken, but when you see the amount of garlic I put in this sucker, I think my name makes just as much sense. I found this recipe by chef April Bloomfield in a fairly new issue of Food & Wine and when I gave my husband a choice of chicken dishes to have for dinner last week, he selected this one. And holy bajeezus, I am so happy I didn’t wait to make it because it was so good! Since then I have been telling everyone to try this chicken. And I figured what better way to push it than write a little blog post?

First off, let’s talk poultry. I grew up in a household that adores chicken. We ate a whole lot of roasted birds growing up, routinely eating the leftovers in my mom’s turkey tetrazzini or in her famous chicken casserole. It really is famously delicious — to the point where my drunk friends once raided my fridge to demolish the pan of leftover casserole I had stashed away. It truly is a good thing I was equally inebriated or that would have been a friendship-ender. I kid you not — I almost cut a bitch.

Anyways, poultry has a remained a large part of my diet. To my husband’s deep-seated sadness I make almost every dish that calls for ground beef with lean ground turkey, which I buy by the case and keep in our freezer. I could easily eat a turkey sandwich every day for lunch and follow it with chicken for dinner and probably make it weeks before ever getting bored. It’s in my blood.

My husband is the exact opposite. He blames the masses of inept diners who order chicken at the restaurant he cooks at for his hatred of this delicious bird. The main problem is that most of the people who order chicken (especially when faced with much more interesting choices) are picky eaters to begin with. They always want their chicken cooked to death and then complain about it being dry. It’s things like this that make my husband reach awesome levels of rage.

So I could already see the not-at-all concealed loathing when I asked him to choose between two chicken entrees. But, hey, if I’m cooking you don’t really get to complain. Or you can complain, and then eat a hot pocket for dinner. It’s all the same to me!

Wow, I have digressed.

Try this chicken! It is easy on the pocketbook and so painfully simple that there is no reason to resist it. Look at the beautiful pictures of it and salivate. And make life easy — just use whole chicken thighs — that’s the best part of the bird anyways. Also do as I did and throw in about four times as much garlic as called for. You’ll thank me for it later.

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