And just like that, it’s cinnamon season—cool and crispy.
Everyone loves fall, but I think Minnesotans love it more, in a nervous sort of way, bookended as it is between months of sweat and shivering. We understand that open windows are a rare and special treat, enjoyed most heartily right now, in late September/early October, when nights are fresh and days are golden and balmy. We’re maniacal outdoor enthusiasts not because we’re masochists, but because we’re fleeing the year-round trap of closed windows.
I think I just defined us as blissful fall neurotics.
Which I’m fine with, my favorite people are a bit neurotic because they don’t take things for granted. And anyhow…fall is blissful and worth celebrating. The bounty of the season is upon us and it is time to cook! After a summer of salads and cold soups, I’m ready for a hearty stew. I’m ready to plan a dinner party, to set the table with candles, and to pour something serious to drink.
Which is why I suggest this recipe for chicken and squash tagine-inspired stew: 1) it puts a fragrant, meaty stew on your table in less than an hour, 2) it features everyone’s fall-favorite squash, and 3) it provides an opportunity to showcase the talents of my friends sommelier Leslee Miller and cicerone Michael Agnew, who are not only culinary geniuses (truly), they’re also a total blast to hang out with.
I’ve leaned on Leslee to suggest wine pairings for past dishes, and thanks to her generosity, I’ll be doing it more in the future (hooray!). But if you’d like to dig deeper, and understand wine and beer basics and the art of pairing to food, then do not miss the back-to-school Beer and Wine University series that Leslee and Michael are teaching together at Case Verde Studio.
In three sessions, they will cover Wine/Beer Bootcamp (October 1), The Art of Pairing (October 8), and Sweet Retreat (October 15) with the energy, humor, and relaxed fun they bring to every event they host. Space is limited for the $40/session classes–sign up for one, two, or all three and be ready for a long winter made bearable with deliciousness. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Until then, Leslee and Michael, offer pairings for this sweet/savory stew.
Wine via Leslee: Dominio IV ‘Still Life’ Viognier ~ Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Lush with notes of tropical flowers, orange, apricots and white peach, this Viognier has to be one of my favorite whites for the fall season. Feminine, yet perfectly structured, this wine is a perfect specimen of Pacific NW Viognier. Biodynamically farmed in the Columbia River Gorge, Dominio IV, is a delightfully small, family-owned winery truly making wines “with intention.” I happen to think that this wine paired to Stephanie’s autumn stew could be one for the Perfect Pairing section of my food/wine pairings page on Amusée. Ripe with sweet apricot and honey, yet crisp like the chill of a fresh autumn day–the Dominio IV Viognier is a perfect combo to the subtle spice and delicious savory notes of the soup.
Beer via Michael: Boulevard Tank 7 Saison. Despite it’s 8.5 percent ABV, Boulevard’s Tank 7 Saison is a perky refresher. Spritzy bubbles and a crisp, highly attenuated finish give it a light impression that won’t overwhelm the stew. It’s loaded with fermentation-derived fruitiness that pick up on the apricots, while herbal hops and spicy white pepper notes tie into the savory side. The whole experience is underscored by a subtle malty sweetness.
Weeknight Chicken & Butternut Squash Stew
2 c. cubed butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small red onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 c. chicken broth
1 preserved lemon, seeded and chopped fine
1/2 c. dried apricots, halved
2 c. cooked chicken, pulled into bite-size pieces (a rotisserie chicken works nicely)
1/2 c. roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. chopped parsley
cooked couscous (or millet, which is gluten-free)
Preheat even to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle a bit of olive oil on the paper. Spread the squash cubes on the paper, drizzle with a bit more oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place in oven. Roast squash for 15 minutes, until starting to brown in spots; turn pieces over and roast for 5-10 minutes more (20-25 minutes total), until tender with browned edges. Remove from oven.
While squash roasts, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add onion to the pan and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to the onions and saute until fragrant, about five minutes.
Stir in chicken broth, preserved lemon, roasted squash, and apricots and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the chicken and heat through. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve as is, or over couscous, sprinkled with chopped pistachios and parsley.