Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Butternut whut?!

Most people think of butternut squash as something in soup or that you serve all butter and sugared up at Thanksgiving dinner.  Having gotten a beautiful one as part of my C.S.A. share, I pondered its fate in our family kitchen.

I wanted to do something different - I do have a great recipe for a beef chili-like stew with butternut squash, but we hadn't had chicken in a while, so I decided to put my thinking cap on, and peruse FoodNetwork for possible ideas.

I found a recipe for a chicken with butternut squash and prunes.  First off, I don't care much for prunes - when I was younger I liked them, but now that I am getting closer to an age that is associated with prunes...ehh...notsomuch.  Prunes. Ugh...the name isn't even appetizing, and I would rather eat plums before they become a dried up whisper of what they once were on the tree.

 Besides, I prefer figs over prunes.  I love their flavor - it's not overpowering, and it pairs wonderfully with a naturally sweet veggie like butternut squash.

So I decided to make a variation of the recipe I found on the Food Network (original is HERE if you are interested)

If you like Mediterranean food or Indian food, you'll probably like this - it's aromatic, slightly sweet, and the chicken is moist.  The butternut squash pairs perfectly with the figs and the orange juice, but the shallots and garlic offset the sweetness.  It is SO EASY TO MAKE.  I am guessing you could probably even crockpot it - if you do, I would suggest browning the chicken first.  

Baked Chicken with Fall Veggies and Figs (printable recipe HERE)
Serves 4

4 Chicken breasts bone in skin on, cut in half and thin rib part removed (Don't be afraid to sub out thighs/legs for breasts)
1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed (If you don't want to peel and cut a butternut squash, they do sell them already cubed in the store - but honestly? fresh is best! :)

3 medium potatoes, cubed, or some small baby potatoes skin on. (Not necessary, but I like a nice contrast of colors when I cook)
1/2 cup frozen green beans, or fresh green beans sliced. (Again, not written in stone - sub out corn, peas, carrots, whatever you want/have in the house)
1/2 cup mission figs, halved
2 good size shallots, sliced thin (You can sub out 1 onion, halved and sliced thin)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup orange juice
about 1 tsp of grated orange rind
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 - 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. if you are using dried)
1/2 tsp oregano, dried (or 1 1/2 tsp. fresh)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Add veggies, figs, spices, shallots and garlic to a dutch oven, or roasting pan.  Toss to mix.  Just toss the stuff into your roasting pan as you cube/slice/dice it.  Can't get much easier than that...Feel free to fool around with the veggies you put in as well - Don't have shallots? Use an onion halved and sliced thin.  Don't want potatoes? omit them.  Want parsnips? add them..turnips would probably work nicely here too.  Anything that pairs well with some sweetness, i.e. the orange juice and figs.

3.  Place chicken breasts on top of the veggie mix. Combine the broth and OJ, and pour the liquid over the top of the chicken, grate some fresh orange rind over the chicken, and season with salt and pepper.  I just grated the orange rind over the top of the chicken - I would guess it was about a teaspoon if you want particulars.  Salt and pepper the chicken before you pop it into the oven.

4.  Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Uncover, then cook for about 40 more minutes, basting about every 15 minutes until chicken is nicely browned.  Basting is important - it will keep the chicken breast nice and moist.  If you don't have a turkey baster, use a soup spoon to ladle the juice over the chicken.

5.  Put some veggies on a plate, arrange 2 breast quarters and spoon some pan juices over all.

This will make your house smell GREAT as it's cooking, and the combination of flavors is out of the ordinary, yet delicious.  Plus again, it's one of those recipes with a HUGE margin for experimentation if you want to get adventurous.  I would say cook for 6-8 hours on high if you do it in the crockpot, and brown the chicken before you add it to the pot.


  1. that looks quite tasty. AND i have chicken..thighs. i think.i have some chicken body part.
    i should make it!

  2. LOL you should Tina - after all, you *are* the Crockpot Queen! :-)