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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Héloïse's Apples and Squash

Who's Héloïse? I don't really know; a friend of cookbook/memoir author Susan Herrman Loomis who shared her recipe for apples and squash (or in French les pommes et potimarron) and ended up in Loomis's book On Rue Tatin. The recipe is a combination of sautéd apples, smothered in a squash and béchamel sauce mixture, which is then baked until golden. Sounded like a delicious and special accompaniment to the mussels I made for Christmas Eve.

Héloïse's Apples and Squash

3 kuri or acorn squash (3.5 lbs) trimmed, peeled,
seeds removed and cut into 2" pieces
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 lbs cooking apples cored, peeled, and cut into eighths

(for Béchamel)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2" dish.

2. Cook squash (boil or roast), purée, drain if necessary.

3. Melt butter in a skillet and add apples. Cook until golden and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to the baking dish.

4. To make the béchamel, scald milk with the bay leaves over medium heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and infuse for 10 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until mixture has bubbled and formed pale yellow foam, about 2 minutes. Pour in hot milk, remove bay leaves, whisking as you add to the flour-butter mixture. Cook until thickened like heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Whisk béchamel into squash.

6. Pour squash béchamel over apples, dot with remaining butter, season with nutmeg. Bake until béchamel is golden, apples tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: My husband and son loved it. I liked it, but I think I was a little let down after all that work.

The squash and apples make a perfect pair and the béchamel adds a wonderful creamy quality to the dish. But honestly, apples, squash and even béchamel are rather mild foods. For me, it lacked a flavor punch that I can't put my finger on. Don't get me wrong: it was delicious. But I think I was expecting a little more.

The squash can be made in advance. And boy, am I glad that I did as I was very busy in the kitchen last night. This is one of those recipes that, in an almost French tradition, create loads of dishes. It's a good idea to have a sink full of hot, soapy water on hand or else an empty dishwasher to load as you go. Otherwise, in addition to all that time you take to cook, you get to spend a long time cleaning, too.

Loomis wrote that her family enjoys the leftovers of this dish slightly warmed for breakfast. I can see this as being a lovely breakfast; rich and filling. Unfortunately for us, we also have a ton of leftover jam and bread pudding from Christmas morning. Well, maybe not so unfortunate. That's another great recipe you'll have to stay tuned for.

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