Mark Bittman Rocks

By now you might think that we have cornered the market on butternut squash. Who can blame with you? I cook with it a pair of times a week. I love this sweet squash, find it tremendously versatile and it’s available everywhere these days. I am all about convenience and eating with the seasons.

Mark Bittman's recipe below is something we spun together over the course of a recent, chilly Saturday afternoon. Bring out your Dutch oven to simplify cooking and better yet, cleanup. The following recipe is different from your conventional butternut squash soup in that it is not pureed or blended. This version has a wonderful chunky texture. The combination of squash, onion, apples, nutmeg, star anise, sage, thyme and bacon gives this chowder tremendous layers of flavor. You won't stop with one bowl.

Mark Bittman is the man. On Sundays, I rip open the New York Times magazine to see what he is exploring in the culinary world. His colorful recipes usually adorn our fridge for weeks. His book, How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition)is one of my prized kitchen bibles. Through simple instructions, he details how to make anything with everything. 

Braise potatoes ten ways. Expertly cut fish steaks. Tips for using nuts and seeds. The basics of mustard. How to trim leeks, master a mandolin and fry rice. Need to know how to julienne vegetables, shuck oysters, butcher a chicken, make challah bread or prepare duck confit, squab, goose or pheasant? This book will teach you all. One Saturday night this past summer, he helped me figure out what in the world to do with trout. It was as simple as serving it alongside a reduced Balsamic vinegar with roasted garlic, rosemary and molasses.

Pick a vegetable, grain, cut of chicken, pork, meat or fish and this book delivers endless recipes. One can use this book as a guide to make different meals, seven days a week, for a decade. It is a real prize for anyone who aspires to simple greatness in the kitchen. I have an artillery of his functional cook books and highly recommend all. 

Roasted Butternut Chowder with Apples and Bacon
Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman


2 lb butternut squash – Harris Teeter sells this skinned, chopped and ready to go
1 large white onion  chopped
2 Gala or Honey Crisp apples – skins and core removed, chopped
3 cloves of garlic 
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS fresh sage – chopped

1 TBS fresh thyme leaves 
1 tsp star anise
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup white wine – I prefer Sauvignon Blanc but anything goes here
6 cups chicken stock
4 strips of chopped bacon – for those in Charlotte, I buy my bacon at Reid’s
Kosher salt
Cracked pepper
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) – this takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes in the oven
Greek yoghurt, sour cream, crème fraîche OR Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino

The To Do List

1. In your Dutch oven, throw in the butternut squash, onion, apples, garlic, nutmeg, sage and thyme leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and be generous with the salt and pepper. Roast in your oven at 400 degrees F for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. You want to stir every 15 minutes or so. You know your medley is complete when the vegetables are caramelized and the bacon has begun to crisp. Remove the dish and set it on the stove but no need to turn it on quite yet.

2. Add the white wine. With a spoon, stir and scrape all the lovely browned bits from the bottom of your vessel.

3. Add the stock, give a big stir, bring to a boil and once boiling, immediately lower to medium high heat. Cook for another 30 minutes or so.

4. After 30 minutes, taste the stew and adjust seasoning if necessary. I like to serve ours with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and toasted pepitas. Freshly grated hard cheeses like Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil are also superb.

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