Serves 4 to 6 | Prep time 30 minutes | Cook time 90 minutes
I am sad that summer is gone but excited at the same time, because fall is an amazing time to enjoy so many delicious vegetables in season. Kabocha squash is one of the wonderful fall vegetables, and there are many ways to appreciate its sweet and nutty flavors. “Kabocha no Nimono (braised kabocha)” is probably the simplest and best known traditional dish, but kabocha is also a great ingredient for some Yoshoku dishes.
Yoshoku is a Western-influenced cuisine adapted in Japan at the beginning of the Meiji era and developed into a unique genre that was designed to accompany the Japanese staple food, rice. Most Yoshoku recipes call for dairy products, which were not used in traditional Japanese cooking. This introduction of dairy was an epic moment in Japanese culinary history in my opinion. Since then, Japanese cooking has evolved into such a rich palette of traditional and contemporary recipes.
Gratin – a casserole dish – is a very popular Yoshoku. Typically, there are two kinds of sauces for gratin: béchamel (white) sauce and meat (red) sauce. For this kabocha gratin, I used meat sauce, which can be a hearty main dish for dinner. You can make meat sauce in advance and store it in your fridge to save cooking time on serving day. Enjoy kabocha, enjoy autumn!
■ 1 Tbsp. butter
■ 1 Tbsp. neutral flavored oil
■ 4 cloves garlic, minced
■ ½ large onion, minced
■ 1 lb ground beef
■ 1 package (3.5 oz.) shimeji or any kind of mushroom
■ ½ tsp. salt
■ 1 tsp. pepper
■ 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed with hands (liquid will be used as well)
■ 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
■ 1 Tbsp. sugar
■ 1 tsp. soy sauce
■ 1 tsp dried oregano
■ 1 bay leaf
■ ½ cup white wine or sake
■ 1 o 1.5 cup shredded cheese of any melting type (such as cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack)
■ 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley of any kind
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Grease all sides of a 2 qt. casserole dish with butter.
Make meat sauce
❶ Heat oil, garlic and onion in a medium-size pot or skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onion turns translucent.
❷Add ground beef and cook until the meat is no longer red, for about 5 minutes.
❸Add mushrooms. Cook another couple of minutes.
❹Add salt, pepper, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, sugar, soy sauce, oregano, and bay leaf. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 30 minutes until the liquid reduces to 1/3 volume of the original amount.
❺Turn off heat and set aside.
❶ Cut kabocha into quarter-inch thick rectangular slices. If the kabocha is too hard and makes you nervous about cutting it, microwave it for about 1 minute first.
❷Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add sliced kabocha and without stirring too much, cook both sides to get them browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
Bake kabocha gratin
❶ Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce at the bottom of the casserole dish. Place sautéed kabocha flat on the meat sauce. Put on another 1/3 of the meat sauce on top of kabocha.
❷Bake the gratin at 400F for 10 minutes. Spread cheese on top and bake another 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.
❸What about the remaining 1/3 of the meat sauce? It makes a great pasta Bolognese at another time!
Recipe by Kanako Koizumi | www. kozmokitchen.com
Kanako, a native of Akita, Japan, is a chef, author and instructor focused on authentic Japanese homecooking. Chef Kanako also offers in-home private cooking classes for groups up to 12.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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