By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
Ramekins add such a special touch, don’t they? Creamy butternut squash mixed with rich grass-fed butter, bits of sausage, and crispy sage leaves top this delectable holiday starter dish. This recipe is easily adaptable for personal ramekins at each seat, or a lovely side dish served with the main course. It’s up to you!
The humble butternut squash is a staple in our home during the colder months. It’s jam-packed with vitamin C, and a one cup serving will give your immune system a nice little boost during cold and flu season. Not only that, its sweet flavor, buttery texture, and tangerine-like hue adds significant beauty to any holiday place setting.
When I was first married, and learning how to cook for two, preparing a butternut squash was incredibly intimidating to me. I avoided it for a long time for fear of seriously injuring myself while attempting to open it! I have since learned that a sharp knife, and a strong vegetable peeler, will do wonders on this versatile gourd.
Butternut squash can be prepared in countless ways. Two of my favorites are butternut squash fries and roasted butternut squash risotto. I also frequently add it to beef stew, with rosemary and a little Marsala wine. Yum!
This squash pairs beautifully with the savory flavor of sage. This soft, and sweet, herb is known for its health benefits and medicinal properties. Frying these delicate leaves in a little coconut oil provides a unique flare to a rather simple dish. This dish is grain-free, and can be easily adjusted for those avoiding dairy. Simply skip the sprinkle of cheese at the end, and substitute butter for a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.
- 1 large butternut squash (about 4lbs), or two small ones
- 4 Tbls butter
- ½-3/4 tsp salt
- 1 Lb ground sausage (or sausage links, with casing removed). I recommend using sausage with light seasoning, nothing too spicy! Kimi has a homemade sausage recipe here that could be used
- 2 tsp fresh minced sage
- 12-16 additional sage leaves for frying
- 1-2 Tbls coconut oil
- (Optional) Feta or parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350F degrees.
- ROAST SQUASH: Pierce your squash 4-5 times with a sharp knife, place it on a baking sheet, and roast it until it's very soft, about 1.5-2 hours. When your knife easily goes through, it's done.
- When the squash is done, set it aside to cool for 10-15 minutes, and begin preparing the rest of the recipe.
- COOK SAUSAGE: Brown your ground sausage, and 2 tsp of freshly minced sage in a skillet until it's cooked through. When your sausage is done, set it aside.
- FRY SAGE LEAVES: Melt 1-2 Tbls of coconut oil in your skillet on medium high heat.
- This part can be tricky, and needs constant attention! When your coconut oil is hot, carefully place 2-3 fresh sage leaves into the oil. Allow them to crisp up for 10-12 seconds until they are holding their shape. I will flip them after a few seconds on each side. I recommend doing this in small batches, otherwise it's difficult to keep up with them fast enough and they burn very easily (you'll see their edges begin to turn brown if they are getting overdone). Place your crispy sage leaves on a paper towel lined plate.
- When your squash has cooled to the touch, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. You can discard them, or dry and roast them for a tasty snack!
- Scoop the squash into a large bowl with 4 Tbls butter, and ½-3/4 tsp salt. Mix well. If you want to remove lumps, use a potato masher, or hand blender.
- COMBINE: Add the cooked sausage to the squash and mix together with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill your ramekins with a heaping ½ cup full of the squash/sausage mix. I used 8oz ramekins, but whatever size you have, fill it up about ¾ of the way full.
- If desired, sprinkle a little feta or parmesan chess on top, and decorate with your crispy sage leaves!