Sunday, December 26, 2021

Warm Butternut and Cheddar Dip


 OK, so here's a question for you. When you entertain, are you more likely to make the same reliable dishes to serve to your guests? Or are you more likely to try something new and different? For the most part, I think I fall into the latter category, but I do still enjoy some of the tried and true. 
 For instance, at my last get-together, I served a few party foods as my friends and I decorated my Christmas trees. We had the favorite Spinach Dip (only I like to use broken soft pretzels as dippers instead of hollowed out bread), and then I also made this dip, which was definitely something new and different.
 I found the recipe on a site called Serious Eats, and it has Fall/Winter Entertaining written all over it. It has that "warm and comforting" thing going on, and it has an amazing depth of flavor that is PERFECT for drinks with friends. 
 So here's the thing.. Even though I have it listed in its original form, I must confess I didn't do it exactly as directed. I know, I know, sometimes I can't be trusted with a recipe. In this case, though, I didn't change the recipe, I just took a couple shortcuts. Instead of fighting with a giant butternut squash, I just bought a couple packages of squash that were already peeled and diced. So much easier! And I didn't have any fresh sage, so I just added some dried sage to the mixture. I'm sure my little shortcuts didn't affect the final product TOO much, so I was willing to gamble. 
  Speaking of the final product, it was fabulous! Choose a strong hearty cracker for dipping, and your guests will devour it. So if you're thinking of stepping outside the usual recipes for your next party, give this one a try. It just might become a new favorite!

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling and greasing
1 large butternut squash 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (4 tbs) butter, plus more if needed
20 sage leaves (from about 3 sprigs)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
Crackers or pita chips for dipping
 Preheat oven to 400°F. 
 Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease a small baking dish with olive oil and set aside. Peel, seed, and dice the squash into 1-inch cubes. Alternatively, use the microwave: Poke holes all over the squash with a fork or make shallow slits in the skin with a knife. Microwave squash for 3 minutes or until the skin and flesh have softened slightly. Peel squash and cut into cubes. Discard seeds. 
 Place squash cubes on the prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast squash until fork-tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add sage leaves and fry in butter until lightly crisped and beginning to darken slightly. Remove pan from heat and remove sage leaves using a slotted spoon. Set aside. 
Return pan to heat, add onion, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion has caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add more butter if onion begins to stick to pan. Stir in garlic at the very end and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Place roasted squash, caramelized onion mixture, and about 2/3 of the crispy sage leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Add cream cheese and sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer squash mixture to prepared baking dish and mix in half of the cheddar cheese throughout. Top with remaining half of cheese. At this point, the dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking and serving. When ready to serve, bake dip at 400°F until cheese is entirely melted and browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Top with remaining crispy sage leaves and serve warm with pita chips or crackers for dipping. 
Be sure to use a SHARP Cheddar cheese, otherwise you won't really taste that fabuloius ooey gooey-ness. You definitely don't want your dip to be bland. And be generous with your sage, salt, and pepper. Just give it a little taste before you bake it, and then adjust accordingly. 
This makes quite a bit, so if you don't have a crowd to feed, you could easily cut the recipe in half. 

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