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Dinner with Jay
Jun 4th, 2008



I've been in a bit of a cooking funk lately, so I decided a new project might help perk me up. Jay, my eight year old, has become a bit more culinarily adventurous lately as well so I thought the time had come for a joint dinner project. The idea is that Jay will pick out one recipe a week, help me make a grocery list, and then help make the dinner.

I gave Jay a Rachel Ray cookbook to look through, and he quickly picked out this butternot squash mac and cheese. The recipe is very similar to recipes in the Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious --> cook and puree a mild tasting vegetable and stir it into the pasta with a bunch of cheese and cream. The little differences that I liked in this recipe were the step of grating the onion directly into the butter, which made for no onion chunks to scare off the kids, and the addition of fresh thyme. I actually left the thyme out of the recipe in the (fruitless) hope that the five year old would eat it, but sprinkled the herbs liberally over my portion, and they were very tasty.

This makes a ton of pasta, so we've got some tucked away in the freezer for a lazy day. Jay ate up all of his and gave it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. For a first try on our new culinary project, I think it went really well.


Boo's Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese

1 pound macaroni with ridges
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1/2 medium onion
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 10-ounce box frozen cooked butternut squash, defrosted
1 cup cream or half-and-half
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Freshly group pepper and coarse salt to taste


Cook the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil add the thyme and grate the onion directly into the pot with a handheld grater or Microplane. Cook the grated onions for a minute or two and then add the flour and cook together for a minute or two more. Whisk in the stock and add the butternut squash and cook until warmed through and smooth. Stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the cheeses in a figure-eight motion and season the sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.

Drain the cooked pasta well and combine with the sauce. Garnish with thyme leaves and an optional sprinkle of cheese. (Boo is the author's dog.)

-Rachel Ray, 365: No Repeats
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com