Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sweet Butternut Squash Coconut Jam: The centerpiece

For someone who works (and plays) in the food industry, I am disconcertingly delinquent when it comes to planning for Thanksgiving. It's not that I forget about the holiday's existence, and, in fact,  spend all month talking about it as a publicist - pitching recipes and menus and wine pairings until every writer in the greater LA area is ready to add me to their blocked senders' lists.

As saturated as my daily world is with all those Thanksgiving-related details (to brine or not to brine, the proper digestif to pair with pumpkin pie, and the tired question of whether to prepare stuffing inside or outside of the turkey), I somehow always fail to think about what I'm going to do myself. It doesn't hit me until the day before, as I'm sending that final work email before heading out the door, that, oh right, Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

It's only then that I start to feel that nudge of compulsion to do something above and beyond what my family already has slated out for the holiday. You know, the standard stuffing-filled barbecued turkey, mashed potatoes with my dad's giblet-heavy gravy, and, yes, even that requisite cranberry jelly served unceremoniously on a plate, still perfectly molded in the shape of a can.

I'll half-heartedly start poking around the fall recipes I've bookmarked for inspiration, pausing to consider a remix on the pumpkin pie I'm not particularly fond of to begin with, the latest variation on Brussels sprouts, or a healthier take on a Thanksgiving side that I may be able to sneak onto the table without too much protest from the potato-pushers in the family. Because, for me, Thanksgiving has become less about what's on the plate, and more about the time spent with the people who know me outside this weird food-focused microcosm where I both work and play. The people who, while often equally passionate about eating well, still think nothing wrong with cranberry jelly plopped onto the table in the shape of a can.

So, today, tonight, I head into another Thanksgiving armed not with a pumpkin pie bread pudding with bourbon-pecan hard sauce; nor a stuffing comprised of homemade cornbread, sausage and caramelized onions; but with a recipe for sweet butternut squash coconut jam that I don't even plan to serve on the holiday itself.

Instead, it will be slathered on bread with a smear of goat cheese at various points over the weekend, tucked into oatmeal with pomegranate arils and toasted walnuts, or perhaps eaten directly from the jar with a spoon. It will stand on its own -- outside of the spectacle of turkey and excessive starches and the vegetables I plan to roast into submission so I have one thing I can eat without hating myself.

And we'll all be thankful for it. Because this jam is a centerpiece all to itself, a sticky mass of fall that deserves to be shared with the people who make Thanksgiving a reason to celebrate in the first place. Even when, and especially because, they force-feed you cranberry jelly from a can.

Sweet Butternut Squash Coconut Jam
Lightly Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 2 cups

Notes: I followed this recipe mostly to the "T" as they say, though I did cut it in half and use regular vanilla as opposed to a vanilla bean. I also used a whole cinnamon stick like the original recipe for double the amount, because I deemed it unnecessary to attempt to snap a cinnamon stick in half. Particularly since I tend to use an aggressive hand with my cinnamon shaker in general. Do with it what you will, but promise me you'll try this spun into a bowl of oatmeal laced with pomegranates and walnuts as pictured below. Life-changing stuff, I tell you.

1 lb butternut squash, grated
1 cup milk
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

In a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot, combine the grated squash, milk, sugars, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently so the milk doesn't scorch. As the squash begins to soften, use the spoon to squash it down a bit. (Forgive me for the terrible pun - it's a disease.) But keep on stirring and mashing, for a good 15-20 minutes or so until it's starting to take on a baby-food like consistency.

Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently as the milk reduces, until the mixture takes on a jam-like quality, approximately 25-35 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves, then stir in the vanilla, followed by the coconut. Remove from the heat and let cool before serving.

Store in the refrigerator, but I'd advise to eat it up within a week or two. Mostly because I'm paranoid about these types of things, but also because this is the kind of jam that should be enjoyed daily on everything and anything that could possibly be served with jam.

1 comment:

Gastronomer said...

carbz on carbz. that's my girl!