Butternut with Bacon, Tomatillo and Chipotle
Serves 2 to 3 as a main course, 4 to 6 as a salad
Here’s a perfect light dinner for me: this tangy, sweet-and-smoky, soul-satisfying butternut braise with a simple salad and a few slices of soft-ripened goat cheese from our local Prairie Fruits Farm, or maybe cheddar from Wisconsin’s Pleasant Ridge. The butternut braise is remarkably easy to make. And it’s comfortable in a variety of roles, from support to a grilled pork chop or chicken breast, to special-occasion side dish on the Thanksgiving table.
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 medium (about 8 ounces) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half around the equator
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
½ of a small (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups of chunks)
2 to 4 ounces (2 to 4 thick strips) bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
About 1 tablespoon grated Mexican queso añejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan
Set a large (10-inch) skillet (nonstick or lined with foil) over medium-high heat and lay in the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down). When the tomatillos are well browned and soft, 5 to 6 minutes, flip everything over and brown the other side. (The garlic should be soft.) Cool, then peel the garlic.
In a blender, combine the garlic, tomatillos, chipotles and 1 cup water. Blend to a coarse puree.
Scoop the butternut pieces into a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the top and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large (10-inch) skillet set over medium, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butternut and tomatillo sauce to the pan, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a brisk simmer. Cook until the butternut is fork-tender and the sauce has reduced by about half its volume, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt (it will need only about ¼ teaspoon because of the bacon’s saltiness). Scrape into a serving bowl and finish with a generous sprinkling of the queso.