Sunday, March 13, 2011

kabocha squash with ricotta cheese/maple lemon brussels sprouts with bacon

Today I have some delicious kabocha squash and ricotta cheese toasts and brussels sprouts with bacon, lemon, maple syrup. These two dishes have "famous chef" pedigrees, and they do not disappoint. I highly recommend both of them.

First is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's kabocha squash and ricotta cheese toasts. New York Magazine will use any excuse to include this little number in a list of must eat restaurant menu items. Seriously, they've probably mentioned this dish like three or four times in recent months. (OK, maybe just twice...) They have never given the actual recipe, but I had a big old kabocha squash that only made so much bread pudding, so I decided to try my hand at recreating the described dish.

Simply put, I roasted the kabocha squash until it was nice and soft. Then I pureed the squash flesh, poured in a little apple cider vinegar, a healthy grind of pepper and sprinkling of salt, and mixed it all around. To put it together, I toasted some bread and then topped it with a layer of ricotta cheese and my vinegared squash.

It was a very nice combination, which I will definitely try to make again. You could tell that the squash and ricotta really complemented one another, and the apple cider vinegar added an unusual depth of flavor. Next time I'll spring for some better ricotta, (I got some cheap off brand that was on sale– probably since it was not very good!), and use some nice thin slices of Italian bread. The basil garnish would also probably be great, but I didn't have any of that at the time.

The other dish pictured is this amazing recipe for maple syrup lemon brussels sprouts with bacon. Also featured in New York magazine, this recipe comes from chef Zak Pelaccio. I don't actually know who that is, but since the recipe was included in feature on famous chef's holiday meals, I think he must be a fairly big deal. Also, if this dish is any indication, he's a culinary genius. I never would have thought that bacon, brussels sprouts, lemon, cream and maple syrup would be a good combination, but somehow they come together beautifully. If I had had chestnuts, I'm sure they would have fit in perfectly, but this dish is so orgasmically good even without them, that I feel that they are unnecessary.

In addition to being super awesomely yummy, these sprout are also really easy. Basically, you fry up bacon, and then you cook the brussels sprouts in the bacon grease with garlic for like five minutes. The recipe also called for fresh thyme, but it was plenty flavorful without it. Then you pour in the cream, and after that's reduced by half, you mix the bacon back in, and add the maple syrup and lemon, letting it cook a little bit longer to let it all meld together. The cream cooks off more than you would expect, and the dish is remarkably light tasting considering the rich and hearty ingredients. The maple syrup is muted by the sprouts themselves, and the lemon gives it a nice brightness and acidity. Quite a remarkable and unexpectedly successful combination of ingredients. It is, in a word, amazing. Seriously. If you don't like brussels sprouts, this is the dish to convert you.

If that wasn't enough to convince you, I'll leave with another shot of this delicious meal:

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