Beautifully cooked food blankets the soul with a sense of peace, a peace that is best shared.
Mom, Grandma, and home cooks from previous generations created food that brought the entire family home to one shared purpose. With the simple act of eating together, differences were put aside, albeit briefly, except for a few jabs under the table.
That is the power of home cookery.
Home cooked meals bind families together, as if the butter and cream were glue. The meal says this is what my family eats together.
That is one reason why people get so very attached to the manner in which they eat and often quite stridently so, as if any single disagreement is an attack on the group and on the cook.
My vision of peace for the planet is that one day, a single comforting meal will simultaneously be shared by everyone. All at the same time.
The joy of sharing a single comforting recipe for peace will make the entire world put aside their differences. We will become a family, still bickering a bit, but a diverse group bound through the strength of soul food.
The following recipe was created with butternut squash, butter, cream, and much faith that people will happily stay glued to the peace table.
With this recipe, I declare World Peace. Enjoy.
Butternut Squash Casserole
1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes
1/2 cup onion
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter, plus more to rub on the pan
Black pepper to taste
1/3 cup cream
Paprika to taste
Sharpen your best knife. Peel the skin using any sharp peeler. The skin is thin, but a good technique is to stand it on end and run the peeler from top to bottom. If the squash is an elderly one, you may only remove small sections off at one time. It is worth the effort though.
Cut a slice off the large bulb end of the squash – exposing the seeds and threads. Scoop those out with a large spoon and consign to the compost bin.
Carefully cut round slices working from the large end to the stem end. The slices should be about 1/4 inch thick, but don’t fuss it too much. Just slice. Cut the rounds in half because they are easier to arrange in a pan or casserole dish that way.
Mince and measure the onion. Measure the bread crumbs (you can sub in saltines or use Panko if you like). Grate and measure the cheese. Set out the butter and the pepper. Measure the cream or milk. Set out the paprika. Measuring is good, but do remember that recipes are nothing but templates, a place for you to begin. Add more or less of any one ingredient.
If you are using a medium squash or two little ones, rub a 2 quart casserole with a bit of the butter. If you have one of those massive squashes on steroids, go ahead and butter a 9 x 11 pan.
Layer 1/3 of the squash in to the bottom of the casserole or pan. Sprinkle with onion, bread crumbs, cheese, pepper, and dot with half the remaining butter. Repeat. Lightly sprinkle the top with paprika.
Drizzle the whole with cream. Watch as the cream slowly disperses. Make beautiful rivers all around.
Cover with a lid or foil and bake in a 375°F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Test the squash for tenderness with a fork. If the squashes are not tender, re-cover and bake a little longer. Thick slices will take longer to cook.
When it is done, the cheese will have many wonderful browned areas. Make sure that all at the table receive a portion.
Remove from the oven and allow the casserole to “set” uncovered for about 10 minute and then serve in peace.
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