Stewed Kabocha Squash With Hen-of-the-Wood Mushrooms, Juniper and Rosemary

Todd Gray, Equinox

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2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1 1/2-inch cubes (butternut squash may be substituted)
1/2 cup kabocha-squash purée (recipe follows)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 cup hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, grilled or sautéed until just cooked
6 juniper berries
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan set over medium-high heat, heat the grapeseed oil and caramelize the squash cubes on all sides—it should take about four minutes. In a small sauce pot, combine the caramelized squash with the remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the squash in tender. Serve warm.

Kabocha Squash Purée:
Makes three cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 kabocha squash, peeled and diced (butternut squash may be substituted)
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pot set over medium-low heat, warm the vegetable oil. Sweat the onions and celery for three minutes or until translucent. Add the squash and cook for two minutes more. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly add, in equal batches, enough vegetable broth, milk, and cream to barely cover the vegetables. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat, strain the vegetables, and reserve the liquid. In a blender, purée the vegetables in small batches. Add the reserved liquid to adjust the consistency—it should be like soup. Pass the purée though a fine mesh strainer.