Butternut Squash Fondue
I readily admit to being a huge butternut squash fan. It's the vegetable that keeps me going through the winter, because it's sweet, and bright, and, it turns out, the perfect serving vessel. Not that I don't have my fair share of dishes, although none of them match. (I don't believe in matching plates. Why would I want them all to be exactly the same? Better to have two of each, all different kinds.) But actually, I am kind of lacking in the serving platter department. Everything comes to the table on a dinner plate, and if it doesn't fit, it gets cut down so that it does. I also lack a fondue set. But that's okay. Because with butternut squash fondue, you don't even need one.
Of course, the butternut squash itself makes a wonderful vehicle for the melted cheese. But this is best served with cubes of day-old bread lightly fried in oil or butter. You should look for a butternut squash on the small side of the spectrum, since each person is served an entire half. Cooking times will vary according to the size of your squash, so you'll be eating faster if you manage to find a little one.
Butternut Squash Fondue
Adapted from Annie Bell's In My Kitchen: Food For Family and Friends
1 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
130 grams Gruyère cheese, grated
40 grams crème fraîche
salt and pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
2 small butternut squashes (around 700 grams if you can find them. If your squash are larger, you'll have to adjust the cooking time. You might even have to double it.)
1 garlic clove, passed through a press
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk the wine and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then stir in the cheese and crème fraîche, as well as salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, until it forms a thick paste. Half the butternut squashes (carefully!) and remove the seeds and stringy fibers. I usually use a grapefruit spoon for this, which words well. Score the squash in an X-pattern with the tip of a sharp knife down the length of the body.
Divide the garlic into 1/4ths and rub a 1/4 of it into each of the hollows left from removing the seeds. Fill the hollows with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.
Place the squash halves in a baking dish, nose to tail. In order to keep the squash level while baking, ball up a bit of aluminum foil and use it to prop the end of each squash up. Season the squash with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, as well as with the chopped thyme. Drizzle with the melted butter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes if you have small squash, up to an hour or more for larger ones. The fondue should be golden and bubbling and the squash itself should be tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife. Serve with cubes of fried bread.