First of all, yes, I know it’s December and I don’t have to post every day anymore.  But I’m impatient, and this was too wonderful and too easy not to share.  And NCIS isn’t on because of Obama’s speech…but how about you humor me and go along with my first reason, mkay?

When Boyfriend was home, we (unfortunately) ate out quite a bit.  I say unfortunately not because it wasn’t all fantastic (it was) or because it broke the bank (it didn’t), but because I lost out on the chance to cook for my favorite taste-tester.  Instead of spending our evenings making the kind of food we both love to eat, the week became a whirlwind of seeing friends and family, and left me with barely enough time to change out of my work clothes.

The flip side of eating so much food cooked by other people is that it completely renewed my devotion to the kitchen.  We ate a lot of unique things last week – things that made my mind swirl with possibilities and drove me into the kitchen early this week to see if I could recreate any of my favorites.

Unexpectedly, it was actually the Butternut Squash Curry we picked up while beer shopping at Wegmans (by the way, if you have a Wegmans in your area and it has a liquor store portion, go there now – they have a surprisingly extensive craft beer collection, and everything is very reasonably-priced) that really stuck in my brain.  It was simultaneously sweet and spicy, and the squash gave it a deceptive, satisfying richness.  And floating amongst the stewy curry were the teeniest, tiniest, most perfectly-cooked shrimp.  We had filled only a quarter of our take-out container with the curry, and I’m not exaggerating when I said we fought one another for the last bite of it.

When I attempted it in my own kitchen tonight, I wasn’t expecting it to blow me away.  Primarily because I, um, didn’t use a recipe; partially because I’m stubborn, and partially because I would’ve changed up anyone else’s recipe far too much.  I never, ever have whole spices, tumeric, or smoked paprika – all of which are prerequisities for curry in most recipes.  But I did have a battery of other spices at my disposal, and since curry powder, cayenne, and paprika were among them, I decided to wing it.  I also didn’t have the eensy little shrimp that were so sweet in the first curry, but substance-wise, they weren’t terribly important to the overall taste.

And boy, was I ever right about all those thoughts – I didn’t miss the shrimp, and I certainly didn’t care if it was a proper curry.  It was damn good. And honestly, it couldn’t be simpler to make: there’s maybe 10 minutes of active cooktime here, so even though it needs about 45 minutes on the stove, it doesn’t need to be babysat.  I have no doubt that it would improve with age if left in the fridge overnight…not that I’ll ever know, since I ate every last bit of it tonight.

Sidenote to my darling Boyfriend: not only is this super easy and so delicious, but you can freeze it.  Or refrigerate it.  Or eat it all at once.  And if you have the spices, it’s literally 3 ingredients – I think your grocery budget can absorb that.

Squash Curry

I think I used a kabocha squash, but Mom can’t remember what the sign said, I can’t remember what she told me, and we’d already used part of the squash for something else so it wasn’t whole.  Regardless, I think the kabocha would be a good choice, as would the butternut, but I would venture to say that any winter squash you have (I’m looking at you, CSA participants) would would work.  Also, I didn’t think that this was terribly spicy, but Mom did, so you might want to dial down the spices a bit until you taste.

1 cup beef stock

1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed squash

1/4 small white onion, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

Over medium-high heat, pour the stock into a pot.  Add all of the spices, stir, then add the squash.

Cook, partially covered (let some of the steam out, or it’ll bubble over), for 45 minutes to an hour, until the squash is soft.  Once it starts to break down, mash the chucks that haven’t come apart against the side of the pot.  You don’t have to get crazy with this – you want it a little lumpy, and if you’d prefer, you can certainly leave all of the squash cubes together and have it a little chunkier.

You can also cook it longer than that – up to 1 1/2 or 2 hours if you’d like, though I only let mine go for about 50 minutes, so I can’t attest to what happens that long into the cooktime.  I imagine that you’d want to cook it a bit lower if you were going to keep it on the heat for that long, or maybe just turn it down to low after the squash starts to disintegrate.

Either way, once you’ve gotten it to the consistency you’d like it, taste and season, then eat. I had mine over some roasted potatoes, but anything would work – other vegetables, rice, quinoa…use your imagination.