Butternut Squash with Sunflower Seed Granola and Stracciatella
"This dish came about when I was messing around with cheese making for Acme’s new menu. It was during the fall, so I had some squash in the walk-in. As a notorious “picker" while I run around the kitchen, somehow the cheese and squash ended up on the same spoon and I just loved the combination." —Brian Loiacano
Butternut Squash Steaks:
2 butternut squashes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter
8 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
Butternut Squash Purée:
4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chile flakes
3/4 cup oats
Heaping 1/2 cup peeled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
One 8-ounce package stracciatella (or lightly chopped burrata)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the squash steaks: peel each squash twice to remove the white layer between the skin and the bright orange flesh. Cut the squash in half horizontally to separate the skinny top of the squash from the bottom. Reserve the bottom of the squash for the purée.
Cut the top half of the squash into 3/4-inch thick steaks. Brush the steaks with oil and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Optional step: grill the steaks in a very hot grill pan or on a grill for 1 minute on each side until proper grill marks have been made (note: this will not fully cook the squash.)
In a small pot set over low heat, cook the butter until it becomes golden brown and smells nutty and brown flecks are beginning to form, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and a pinch of salt and mix to combine.
Place the squash steaks on a baking sheet and cover the steaks with the butter mixture. Roast the squash in the oven until the steaks are fork-tender, but not mushy, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the butternut squash purée: cut the reserved bottom halves of the squashes in half and scoop out the seeds. Roughly cut the squash into golf ball–sized pieces.
In a pot set over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots, cumin, and chile flakes and cook until the shallots are tender but have not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped squash and just barely cover with water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer. Cook until the squash is very tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer all of the contents of the pot to a blender and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Purée until smooth and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Make the sunflower granola: lower the oven to 300°F. Mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the granola out in an even layer. Bake in the oven making sure to stir often. Cook until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
To serve: heat the vinegar in a small pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Raise the oven to 450°F (or use a broiler). Put the squash steaks in the oven to reheat until hot, about 10 minutes. Remove the squash steaks and top with a generous mound of stracciatella cheese. Return the squash steaks to the oven and bake until just warm, about 5 minutes—do NOT fully melt the cheese.
While the squash is reheating, place 1/4 cup squash purée on 8 small plates. Place the a few hot squash steaks on top of the purée and top each with 2 tablespoons of granola. Drizzle with reduced vinegar, maple syrup, chives, a squeeze of lemon juice, black pepper, and finishing salt.