Five-Spice Butternut Squash in Cheesy Custard
Orange butternut squash, golden custard and fiery-red pepper and sesame topping reflect the colors of fall in this dish. It’s perfect for a festive brunch, as it’s filling enough to keep you going until the big feast, and special enough to really feel like you’re celebrating. Serve this with some lightly cooked greens, if you like.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1large butternut squash (about 3 1/2 pounds/1 1/2 kilograms), halved lengthwise and deseeded (stem, base, and skin intact, and one half reserved for later use)
- 5large shallots (10 1/2 ounces/300 grams), peeled and halved lengthways
- 2 ½tablespoons olive oil
- 1teaspoon five-spice powder
- ½teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
- ¾cup plus 2 tablespoons/200 milliliters chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- ¾cup plus 1 tablespoon/200 milliliters heavy cream (double cream)
- 3 ½ounces/100 grams Gruyère, finely grated
- 4to 5 egg yolks (80 grams)
- 2garlic cloves, minced
- 2teaspoons cornstarch (cornflour)
- 2teaspoons white miso
- 1 ½tablespoons white sesame seeds
- ¾teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- ½teaspoon sweet paprika
- ⅛teaspoon five-spice powder
- 2tablespoons olive oil
- ¼cup/10 grams chives cut in 1/3-inch/1-centimeter pieces
- 1 ½tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
Step 1Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit/240 degrees Celsius (nonfan).
Step 2Cut the butternut squash crosswise into 3/4-inch/1 1/2- to 2-centimeter-thick half moons. Transfer to a wide, large cast-iron skillet, skin side up, keeping the slices together in the shape of the butternut squash half. You might have to angle the pieces slightly so that they all fit. Place the shallots on either side of the squash.
Step 3In a small bowl, combine oil, five-spice powder, cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Pour this all over the vegetables in the skillet, and use your hands to coat everything nicely, rearranging the squash pieces if necessary.
Step 4Bake squash for 25 minutes, or until the squash is soft but not falling apart. Spoon out half the cooked shallots from the pan and set them aside, keeping them intact. Set squash aside to cool for 15 minutes, and turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit/170 degrees Celsius (nonfan).
Step 5As the squash cools, prepare the custard: Add the stock and cream to a medium saucepan, and heat through on medium until steaming. In a separate large heatproof bowl, whisk together half the cheese, the yolks, garlic, cornstarch (cornflour), miso, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Slowly pour the scalding cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until incorporated and smooth.
Step 6When ready, pour the warm custard into the butternut squash skillet, letting it pool all around the squash (avoid pouring it directly onto the squash). Sprinkle the remaining half of the cheese all over the custard, avoiding the top of the squash. Lastly, gently place the reserved shallots, cut-side up, on top of the custard and cheese. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the custard is set with a very slight wobble.
Step 7As custard cooks, prepare the topping: Add the sesame seeds to a small frying pan set over medium-high heat. Toast for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add the Aleppo pepper, paprika, five-spice powder and a tiny pinch of salt, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the oil and leave to cook gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes before stirring in the chives and lime juice.
Step 8When ready to serve, spoon the sesame topping all over the custard and serve warm.