We decided, impetuously, to experiment with adding milk (and a couple other things) to Patricia's recipe for butternut squash compote.
The results? Well, first of all, we were lucky. We overestimated the cooking time and left the compote unattended at just the wrong moment. We ended up with rather less compote and rather more carbon on the bottom of our pan than we would have liked. But it didn't burn down to nothing - there was plenty left on top.
But the recipe still worked out; the remaining unburnt jam had cooked down with the milk and sugar into a deliciously caramelized mixture of tender mashed butternut squash - with a smoky fall flavor all its own (hopefully not due to our burning the bottom of the milk!) - and a gooey, jammy texture. We stirred in unsweetened coconut for the final touch.
This jam, despite the, um, issues along the way, is heavenly. Don't take our word for it - our dining companions moaned. It's very sweet and rich, so it's the perfect thing to go with a soft goat cheese. We spread slices of rustic bread with a very assertive goat cheese and slathered the jam on top. Sweet, spicy, fall, and jammy. It's amazing, and we plan on using it in our holiday appetizers.
It left us curious about even more applications of butternut squash in the holiday kitchen, and we will certainly return to this (and try the original, milkless recipe) soon.
• See Patricia's original recipe: Butternut squash compote – doce de abóbora
1 large butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds
2 cups milk
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
8-10 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
Peel the butternut squash and cut into small pieces - about 1 inch or less to a side. You can also grate it. The smaller you cut the pieces the faster it will cook. Put in a large (4 quarts or more) heavy pan over medium heat. Add the milk, sugars, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla.
Cook over medium heat until the squash is soft and tender. Keep a close watch on it as the milk simmers; it has a tendency to foam up. After the milk comes to a simmer it will be 10-15 minutes before the squash is soft. As the squash becomes soft and tender, mash it into a pulp with a potato masher or a pair of forks. Stir well.
Keep the heat on medium and continue simmering, stirring frequently. When the mixture is reduced and thick like jam, remove from the heat. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn as the milk reduces. This will take between 20 and 30 minutes.
Stir in the coconut and let cool before serving. Store in the refrigerator. We think this should keep for some time, but why should it? Ours is mostly gone already.
Related: D.I.Y. Recipe: Dulce de Leche
(Images: Faith Durand)