Butternut squash and leek Macaroni and cheese

Butternut Squash and Leek Macaroni and Cheese

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This is a great fall dinner. It is perfect for a chilly night and it can be deliciously paired with a spicy pumpkin ale.

2 lb. butternut squash

1/2 sweet onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 lb. pasta – shells, or your other favorite smaller shape

6 tbsp. unsalted butter

3 tbsp. flour

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups milk

1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

a handful of basil, chiffonade

3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Clean and cut the butternut squash into smaller chunks, about the same size as the pasta you chose to use. Saute the squash, onion and half the garlic in 1 tbsp. butter. Cook until the squash is close to being soft all the way through – check it by sticking a fork through it.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Save some of the pasta water to thin out your sauce in case it gets too thick.

Saute the leeks and the other half of the garlic in 3 tbsp. of butter until tender. Add in the  flour and whisk in until smooth. Add in half the chicken stock, whisk until smooth again. Warm the milk (in the microwave or on the stove) and add it into the sauce, whisk until creamy. Let the sauce cook down until it is a little thick – keep whisking it so the bottom doesn’t burn. When the sauce thickens add in the cheddar and Gruyere cheese and whisk until all the cheese is melted.

Mix the sauce, cooked pasta, basil and squash mixture together. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with a little bit of pasta water. Pour it all into a buttered 9×13 inch baking dish.

Make a mixture of 2 tbsp butter cut into small pieces, the Panko breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese. Mix it with your finger tips to separate the butter. Sprinkle it on top of the pasta and bake in the over at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until your breadcrumbs look toasted.
For all you bacon lovers out there – try adding some bacon crumbles to the top before you bake it…. mmmm!

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Sweet Potato and Bacon Soup

This soup was kind of an accident. I don’t know what made me want to turn sweet potatoes into soup – but I am glad that I tried it because it has quickly turned into one of my favorites. I have made it twice now, with and without leeks, both were delicious.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Soup

4 slices bacon

1/2 medium-sized sweet onion

2 carrots

3 ribs celery

3 cloves of garlic

1 large or 2 thin leeks

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

a hand full of chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup light cream

creme fraiche

Cut the bacon in small pieces and cook over medium high heat. Allow the fat to render and remove the crispy bacon bits that remain in the pan. *The bacon bits will get soggy in the soup so make sure you remove them at this point.

Dice the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery stalks and saute them in the bacon fat for a few minutes. Clean and slice the leeks and add them to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste and saute until all veggies are tender.

*Here’s a little hint about slicing the leeks. Most recipes tell you to slice the leeks into half-moons. We are going to blend this soup with a hand blender. I find that when the leeks are sliced like this they tend to get stuck in the hand blender and leave stringy pieces in the soup. If you slice the leeks lengthwise and then cut them across, you get very small square pieces that do not get stuck in the hand blender. If you are going to use a regular blender and spoon your soup into it, it probably doesn’t matter which way you slice the leeks. Here’s what they looks like cut up small:

After the veggies are tender, add the sweet potatoes and saute about 5 minutes. Add in the stock and bring to a boil, simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Chop the basil and add it into the pot. Turn off the heat and use a hand blender to blend the soup until creamy. Add in the light cream and stir. You can thin the soup with more broth if you like it a little thinner.


Serve the soup topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, a little more basil, and bacon crumbles on top.