I love a good cut of meat, sausage, or a steak on the grill. Sometimes though, I might need to have an alternative around for non-meat eaters that can work with the same garnishes as a simple chunk of protein, and a grilled or pan roasted butternut squash steak is a crowd favorite I’ve relied on for years.
It’s easy, so easy that a formal recipe for it hardly seems necessary, but, after seeing a few cooks mangle them here and there, I’m going to give you a basic outline with some pointers to help you succeed if you want to try them out.
One of the best parts, especially for events and catering where I REALLY rely on easy vegetarian entrée options, is that a trusty squash slabs fits neatly into both a meat menu as a vegetable option, and a vegetarian menu as a meat option, seamlessly. Anything you can do to reduce prep time when you have to execute things under pressure is useful.
The garnishes can be whatever you want at the end of the day, but pictured is a great one that covers all the bases: a pile of hedgehog mushrooms, wilted watercress and a zippy herb salsa verde. It’s simple to put together, and much more appealing than the common afterthoughts like limp bowls of stir-fry, or frozen bean burgers.
Butternut Squash Steaks with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Salsa Verde
- 1 large butternut squash
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon flavorless cooking oil plus more for cooking
- Wilted or steamed watercress spinach, or another green you like, for serving
Hedgehog Mushrooms (see recipe)
Salsa Verde (see recipe)
- Cut the round bottom off the butternut squash and reserve for soup or another purpose. Cut the vine end from the top of the squash, then peel with a vegetable peeler. I like to use a Y-shaped Kuhn Rikon peeler for this. Peel the top of the squash down until all the orange flesh is revealed, then cut into thick steaks, about an inch thick. Put the squash steaks in a shallow dish or pan like a cookie sheet, drizzle with the oil, turning over to coat, then season with salt and pepper on each side and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- To cook the steaks, preheat the oven to 325F, then heat a cast iron pan until nearly smoking. Add the squash steaks, along with another drizzle of oil, and cook without disturbing them on high until the bottom side is starting to develop color, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the squash is just tender.
- Remove the pan from the oven and gently lift up the squash to gauge the color. If needed, return the pan to the burner for a few minutes more. When the squash steaks are golden brown and delicious, serve them, browned-side up, dividing the mushrooms over each squash steak, with some wilted greens on the side. Pass the sauce at the table.
Wild Mushrooms With Garlic And Parsley (Mushrooms with Persillade)
- 1 small clove fresh garlic end trimmed
- 1 small handful Fresh Italian parsley 1/2 oz or so, very well dried
- 8 ounces mixed fresh wild mushrooms
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon Cooking oil or poultry fat, especially duck fat
- Clean the mushrooms, rinsing them lightly with water and drying on a towel if needed.
- On a cutting board, mince the garlic and parsley together with a chefs knife until very fine. This will make a little more than you need. Leftover persillade is good stirred into soup, or tossed with hot vegetables.
- In a large saute pan or cast iron skillet or two pans if you only have 10 inch saute pans, heat the water on high heat and add the mushrooms. Cover the pan with a lid to trap steam.
- Cook the mushrooms until wilted and the pan is dry, then add the oil and allow them to brown gently.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, then stir in a generous tablespoon of the persillade.
- Double check the seasoning for salt and adjust if needed, then remove and serve. The mushrooms make a good side dish like this, perched on top of a steak, or a bowl of wilted greens, plopped onto a bowl of soup--just about any way you could imagine.
Herb Salsa Verde
- Good blender
- 2.5 oz Mixed fresh herbs washed and cleaned* you want a good blend here, as big as you can manage: basil, chives, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, mint and lovage are all good.
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or finely chopped anchovies
- 2 oz lemon juice + zest of one lemon (red wine vinegar is a good substitute
- 1 tablespoon nonpareille capers
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes depending on your heat tolerance
- ¾ cup 6 oz blended olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- Chop the herbs coarsely, making sure any stems aren't too long, which can make a stringy sauce.
- Combine the chopped herbs and remaining ingredients except the oil and water in the bowl of a blender, then puree, drizzling in the oil, until very smooth.
- At the end, add the water, then puree for another 5 seconds or so to really get it nice and smooth. Transfer to a pint jar and store in the fridge. The sauce will lose it’s bright green color after a few days but will be good for weeks.