butternut squash: roasted and mashed

whole butternut squash
If you've been reading these tea leaves for awhile, you might recall that there's a somewhat unusual allergy in our house. James is allergic to potatoes.

Yes, that means no french fries. Yes, it means haranguing waiters about the presence of potato starch in soups. Yes, it means realizing that just about every restaurant in Brooklyn uses potato rolls for their burgers. But perhaps most painfully, it means no potatoes at Thanksgiving.


But before you send letters of sympathy and posies to console me, let me present a potato-less Thanksgiving side dish that actually does not disappoint. If you're one of the .0002% (according to my calculations) of the population that can't eat potatoes, consider this your savior. A potato alternative so good that no one at Thanksgiving dinner will miss the buttery fluff they're used to (or at least they'll abstain from telling you). If you can eat potatoes, consider making this anyway. Tonight.

Like most things I cook, this is a bare-bones, no-nonsense, add-come-heavy-cream-and-call-it-a-day recipe. It's the kind of dish that you start while the sun is still in the sky and by the time you've finished it's already gone. It's not because it takes so very long, but because at this time of year the hours just work that way. Dinner is prepared after dark. Think of this as your bright spot once the sun goes down.
roasted garlic
roasted butternut squash
mashed butternut squash with roasted garlic and cream
Roasted & Mashed Butternut Squash with Garlic & Cream:

1 large butternut squash (or more, depending on the crowd)
1 head garlic
a half cup (or so) cream, to taste
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
olive oil, a drizzle or three

You could make this something much more sophisticated, but the easy version is so tasty that you'll be tempted not to.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Cut your squash length-wise down the center. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a baking pan, and place the seedless-squash face down on the pan.*

3.  Cut the very top off of your head of garlic and discard. If you're using a hard-necked variety you might have to use some force to get through the stem. If there's a thick papery layer around the garlic head, remove the outermost layer of skin but be sure to leave enough so that the whole head remains intact. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in a piece of parchment paper. Place packet next to the squash and put the whole baking dish in the hot oven. Let roast for roughly one hour.

4.  When squash and garlic are both soft, remove baking sheet from oven. Using a spoon, scoop softened squash out of its skin and into a medium bowl (be careful not to burn your fingers). Add roasted garlic to the squash--with a little pinch, the cloves should easily slip out of their papery shells.

5. I use a pastry cutter to mash the cloves and squash together. If you have an immersion blender, you could give that a go, too. Add salt, pepper, and cream to taste.

6. Enjoy. {If you're in the mood for a simple dinner, sauté some greens to have on the side and enjoy your purée with a hunk of bread and strong cheese}.

*Strangely enough, handling raw, peeled butternut squash actually gives both me and James a slight allergic reaction, Unlike being allergic to potatoes, this allergy is fairly common. Read more about it here, and avoid the whole mess by only making a single slice down the center of your squash before it's cooked (there's no need to cut the squash into cubes)! I hardly touched the stuff and avoided a reaction this time.
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