07 February 2010

Jalapeno Cream Sauce? Yes, Please!

For those of you who blog about food, are you ever hesitant to share a recipe because it just isn't photogenic? This recipe nearly didn't make the cut because I just haven't taken a decent picture of it to save my life.  But, honestly, I don't care.  The dish is just that freaking good- who cares what it looks like?

Truthfully, I have never been tempted by any spaghetti squash recipe.  I think when my dad was going through a low-fat kick sometime several years ago, my mom heard about spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta with marinara sauce.  So she made it.  I hated it (I assume my other family members did as well, since I don't remember her ever making it again). It just didn't work for me as a stand-in for pasta.  Then I saw a discussion on the CLBB about Spaghetti Squash with Jalapeno Cream Sauce.  Esqueeze me? Jalapenos? Cream? Cheese? Yes, yes, yes! I decided I needed to get over my bias against spaghetti squash and give it another try.  I am very happy that I did (as are my dad and boyfriend, both of whom have eaten this dish and thoroughly enjoyed it).

The spaghetti squash is microwaved or baked to release the flesh into short strands that will make up the bulk of this recipe.  The squash is tossed in a creamy, cheesy, spicy sauce, thickened with a blonde roux and flavored with jalapenos. A dusting of panko breadcrumbs provides a contrasting crunchy bite to the creamy, rich squash baked in the cream sauce (think macaroni and cheese).  I have made this dish several times, adjusting it to suit my tastes in a variety of ways.  It is nice with some red bell pepper and mushrooms mixed in, or maybe a little zucchini and lots of extra jalapenos.  I will never ignore spaghetti squash again unless you try to serve it to me with marinara sauce.

Spaghetti Squash with Jalapeno Cream Sauce
adapted from Sunset, October 2008

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs.)
2 cups milk
4-5 jalapeƱos, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

1 small-medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for pans
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded jalapeno jack cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 small zucchini, quartered and chopped (optional)*
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)*
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)*
additional cheese for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cut squash in half lengthwise (can microwave squash for several minutes to soften slightly to make it easier to cut in half) and use a spoon or melon baller to remove seeds and surrounding fiber. Put squash, cut side down, on a lightly buttered baking sheet and bake until tender when flesh is pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes. Or poke several holes in skin of squash with a fork and microwave it on high 10 minutes. Squash should be tender when pierced with a fork; if it isn't, microwave on high in 1-minute intervals until tender. Let sit until cool.

2. When squash is cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scrape the strands out of the skin and into a large bowl.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add chopped jalapenos and onions and saute for 3-5 minutes.   Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, until flour smells cooked (like piecrust), about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk while whisking. Reduce heat to medium and continue whisking until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add cheese to cream sauce and turn off heat, stirring to melt cheese. Taste and adjust salt.  Pour mixture over squash and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a buttered 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with additional jack cheese and panko crumbs and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 30 minutes.
*Optional - Saute any optional vegetables in about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter over medium-high heat to caramelize slightly, 4-7 minutes.  Stir in to squash and cheese sauce mixture before baking. 


NT said...

how spicy is this? i am intrigued
what kind of milk? skim? 2%?
sorry for all the Q's

Alyssa said...

Yum Yum Yum...I can attest to the fact that it was WONDERFUL!

Josie said...

NT- You can use whatever milk you have on hand. I have used skim, half and half and a mix of half and half with chicken stock (random, I know!).

Alyssa- I forgot that you and Nick tried it too! I think it has gotten approval from everyone who has tried it.

Cate O'Malley said...

Never had spaghetti squash, but you're sure making it sound very tempting!

grace said...

oh, i love spaghetti squash! i'm glad you gave it another shot.
more importantly, words can't describe how enticing that sauce sounds. methinks it'd taste good even on an old shoe. :)

Barbara said...

LOVE spaghetti squash! Going to do a post on it soon.
What a super idea to make it with a cream sauce. YUM>

limoncello said...

I love this recipe!
I've never understood whether there's a reason to think spaghetti squash and tomato sauce are a natural combination outside of the "spaghetti" thing. I bet a lot of people think they don't like this fun squash on account of having had too many of those red sauce presentations.