The holidays are here, folks, and they’ve arrived earlier than usual. Everyone seems a bit caught off guard by how fast the fall has gone by, myself included. So much so, that as I write this column with Thanksgiving less than a week away, I’m still unsure what I’ll be cooking. I honestly haven’t even wanted to think about it. I just know there will be turkey.
Maybe this is an opportunity to scale back. Many of us put a ton of time and energy into making a big, impressive holiday dinner. Everything has to look good, be kept warm, and take into account the preferences and restrictions of all of our guests. And before we know it, the day is over and we’re standing in front of a sink of bottomless dishes well into the evening. It’s fun and all, but is it worth it? Or am I just getting old?
I admit I was a bit jealous when I heard a friend discussing her Thanksgiving plans. Her day will include hanging out, eating whatever and watching movies with a friend. Granted, that looks like many of my weekend evenings already, but I appreciate the total lack of pressure. She actually gets to enjoy all aspects of her day.
My point, and it’s partly a reminder to myself, is that we don’t need to go crazy. We should just be happy to have friends, family and food to enjoy. Who cares if you don’t make your grandmother’s pie crust just right, forget the green bean casserole in the oven or are just too tired to clean the house as well as your sibling thinks you should. Everyone will survive. Unless you start discussing the recent midterm elections with relatives who have opposing political views. Have those conversations, but maybe save them for another day.
This week’s recipe doesn’t have much to do with Thanksgiving. It’s a grilled cheese sandwich. Though it’s a grilled cheese stuffed with things to make it memorable. It’s got squash, apples, caramelized onions, balsamic, maple syrup and everything else in the ingredients list below. If you want to make it a casual holiday this year, you couldn’t go wrong with grilled cheese and a bowl of soup. Or if you are having a feast, save this for the weekend and throw in some leftovers to make it even better.
Squash, apple and caramelized onion grilled cheese
1 medium butternut squash, peeled
½ pound Swiss cheese
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
1 sprig fresh rosemary
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
1 large onion
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
8 slices crusty bread
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a baking mat.
Cut off the bottom portion of the squash that contains the seeds. Save for another use, as you just need the solid top portion. Thinly slice the squash, cheese, apple and onion. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stem and finely chop.
Melt two tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion, ¼ teaspoon of salt and toss together. Loosely cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, melt another two tablespoons of the butter and stir together with the rosemary, maple syrup, salt, chili powder and chipotle, if using. Arrange the squash slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush both sides with the butter mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tender.
Stir the balsamic into the pan with the onions and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes or until they’ve caramelized. Keep an eye on them, making sure the onions don’t stick or burn. When the squash and onions are done, you’re ready to assemble. Preheat a large skillet over low heat with the remaining butter as you make your grilled cheese.
On four slices of bread, layer a slice of cheese, a few pieces of squash, a couple slices of apple, some of the onions and another piece of cheese. Top each with the second piece of bread. Arrange each sandwich in the skillet and raise the heat, if needed. Cook about four or five minutes, or until golden brown, then flip each sandwich over and cook another few minutes until done to your liking. If it needs some help cooking, use a cover from a pan to gently press down on the sandwiches and help everything meld.