Recipe that calls for smoking herbs for chimichurri elevates basic seasonal squash to sublime taste

Nov. 9—The simple acorn squash entrée on the fall menu at Red, Wine & Brew’s Mentor location clearly demonstrates why we’re eating out rather than preparing all of our meals at home. Its basic ingredients are elevated to a surprisingly sophisticated level through the skills of a professional kitchen.

A creation of chefs Hayden Schultz and Ryan “Yellow” Wiegand, the entrée becomes a hit among diners with its savory combination of hearty seasonal ingredients and a reasonable price of $16. Served on a bed of smoky chimichurri, blackened acorn squash half overflows a white bean stew – a dish dressed in bright orange autumnal color. Crispy fried sage leaves adorn its top.

The recipe is quite simple, but smoking the herbs used in chimichurri is one of the secrets to its addictive taste.

Schultz shows how the herbs are smoked over cherry wood in a cocktail smoker purchased to make the bar’s craft cocktails.

“You can get one for about $30 on Amazon and also buy cherry wood there to smoke it,” he said.

Chef Hayden Schultz of Mentor’s Red, Wine & Brew draws wood chips from a cocktail smoker to smoke the herbs placed in a sealed container alongside. (Janet Podolak??

The restaurant’s supplier, foodservice distributor Northern Haserot, provides the restaurant’s wood chunks for smoking, he said.

The chefs have set up a plastic-wrapped container to smoke the herbs they need to make the 20 servings of the acorn squash dish they sell each night. But home cooks who have a wok with a lid can set wood chips on fire in a wok with a screen or grate so that the herbs placed on the chips smoke briefly while covered. The herbs should be smoked whole and then chopped for the recipe.

“We smoke our herbs in three 30-second sessions,” Schultz says. But the recipe is good even without smoking.

The men shared their recipe, but each credits the other with creating it. Smoking the herbs and using generous amounts of sage and cilantro for chimichurri can be traced to Schultz’s cooking experience in New Mexico, while Wiegand was the one who first created the dish.

“We experimented with different beans and liked the Cannellini and black beans, but decided the Great Northern beans had better texture,” Schultz said.

Beans, covered in water and soaked overnight, are one of the last things on their list before closing the kitchen at the end of the evening. When they arrive at noon, they are ready to be cooked.

“I like to start the squash with a little white wine or rice vinegar before flipping the halves and roasting them,” Weigand says. “I finish the squash by grilling it face down to blacken its skin. You really have to watch it because it can burn quickly.”

They never know how many acorn squashes to order because the dish has become popular so quickly. Acorn squash comes in all sizes, so cooking times may vary, but the recipe shared here is based on a 1-pound squash.

The number of gourds ordered for the restaurant is about to increase.

“Soon we’ll be offering pumpkin and apple soup that we’ll be serving in half the squash,” Schultz said.

“It’s great for vegetarians and vegans and could even be a great starter or side dish for Thanksgiving,” Weigant said.

Also new and worth trying on Mentor Restaurant’s fall menu are Duxelle Crostini Mushrooms and Sticky Pork Bao Buns, both on the list of menu entrees.

Red, Wine & Beer

Where: 9620 Old Johnnycake Ridge Road, Mentor

Info: 440-210-0024; redwineandbrew.us/mentor.

Recipe

At Red, Wine & Brew in Mentor, crisp sage leaves complement the new acorn squash entrée with a white bean stew brimming with roasted acorn squash on a bed of smoky chimichurri. (Janet Podolak??

Acorn Squash with White Bean Stew

(Makes 2 generous appetizer servings or four servings if halved)

Ingredients

1 cup Great Northern beans, dried

3 to 4 cups salted water (or 1 cup chicken broth)

1 white onion, finely chopped

1/2 carrot, finely diced

1/2 celery stalk, finely diced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced

For the squash:

1 acorn squash (about 1 pound), cleaned and halved

1/2 cup white wine or rice wine vinegar

For Chimichurri:

1/4 cup parsley, stems removed

1/4 cup cilantro, stems removed

1/3 cup basil, stems removed

1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, stems removed

1 cup spinach

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of honey

For the sage leaves:

6 fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup hot oil

Instructions

Sort and rinse the beans. Soak beans overnight in 3 cups salted water. Drain.

Add to the soaked beans 1 cup fresh water (or chicken broth if the vegan dish is not needed), the diced onion, carrot, celery and red pepper.

Bring to a boil, then cover, lowering the heat to simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes until tender. Add more water if it boils.

Smoke the herbs in a wok, placing them in a single layer on a wire rack over small pieces of hot cherry wood. Blow on the coals to make them smoke.

Place the lid on the wok. Leave to smoke for 10 minutes.

Finely chop the smoked herbs and mix them with wine vinegar and honey. Put aside. Chimichurri sauce can be used to enhance many dishes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place two cleaned squash halves on a foil-lined baking sheet, cut side up.

Divide half a cup of wine or vinegar between them, placing them in cavities.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the squash halves, cut-side down, and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until tender.

Once cooked, put them under the broiler for a few minutes to blacken the skins. Watch carefully.

Heat the oil in a small skillet until it bubbles. Quickly add the sage leaves.

After 30 seconds, gently remove onto a paper towel.

Chimichurri spoon on two plates.

Add the squash halves flesh side up.

Pour the white bean stew into the cavities of the squash. Angle the squash in half so they spread over the chimichurri.

Garnish each serving with crisp sage leaves. Serve hot.

— Courtesy of Hefs Hayden Schultz and Ryan Wiegand, Red, Wine & Brew