"Everyone knows what and how their main dish is going to be for holidays, but the accompaniments, people like to branch off from time to time," says Tom Kaldy, executive chef at The Charles in Wethersfield. "I think this is a great dish for the home cook; it’s simple, can be prepared with each family’s own twist, and can be served hot or room temperature."

Delicata squash tournedos, local delicata, mushroom and chestnut stuffing, pomegranate, goat cheese, wilted baby kale Chef Tom Kaldy (8).jpg

Delicata squash tournedos

Serves: 6

Prep time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Squash and sauté mixture

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 2 large delicata squash
  • 1 cup uncooked organic quinoa (red, white or both), rinsed thoroughly before cooking
  • Extra virgin olive oil (enough for coating squash)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 pint sliced shiitake mushroom (or your favorite variety)
  • 1 pint baby or julienned kale, stems removed
  • 1 cup sliced, roasted and salted chestnuts

Dressing

  • 3 large shallots, peeled only
  • ⅔ cups champagne vinegar
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon strong Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes

  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Toasted delicata squash seeds
  • Honey goat cheese, or your favorite variety

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat a convection oven to 325 degrees or a conventional oven to 350 degrees. Also bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. 

2. Square off the ends of the delicata squash and cut each one into 3 equal rounds. Remove the interior and separate the seeds.

3. Add quinoa to the boiling water and cook until the grains just begin to burst, about 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. For the dressing, roast the 3 whole shallots until golden and tender, about 20-30 minutes. Let them cool to room temperature. In a blender, combine the shallots, champagne vinegar, basil, mustard and honey and blend well. Slowly incorporate the olive oil and then season to taste.

5. In a large bowl, season the delicata squash with olive oil to coat, along with salt, pepper, and julienned sage. Place on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the flesh is fork tender and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. At the same time, place the seeds on a sheet pan with a touch of olive oil, and season; roast the seeds until just golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.

6. In a large sauté pan, sweat the onions until tender, then add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the kale and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes total, stirring often. Finish with the toasted chestnuts.

7. To serve, place the delicata squash on a platter, add the quinoa to the sauté mixture and then add the dressing using your preference for the quantity; the more dressing, the sharper the dish will be. Stuff the squash with the mixture and garnish with the toasted seeds, pomegranate and honey goat cheese. Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature as the flavors will continue to meld together.


Q&A with Chef Tom Kaldy

Chef Tom Kaldy.jpg

Tom Kaldy, executive chef at The Charles in Wethersfield

How did you first get into cooking?

When I was 13 years old, I got an under-the-table job helping to restore a pizza restaurant. Watching a kitchen in action for the first time, especially at that age, is something that you want to run from immediately or it so heavily piques your interest that you can’t imagine doing anything else; clearly I chose the latter.

What’s your fondest memory of a holiday meal?

Sitting around our rarely used dining-room table with all the fine china and silver pulled out, the food items, family in every part of the house. Watching a day planned so heavily and accompanied by the company, the games, watching football. It was a beautiful thing.

Tips on using local ingredients in holiday meals?

Talk to your local farmers. They know what they currently have and what they will have available. Secondly, the more the better. The flavor difference between anything you get in a commercial supermarket compared to right around the corner is astounding, even to chefs.

When preparing a holiday feast, is it better to be a traditionalist or an innovator?

Neither is “better.” It’s a matter of preference. Traditions exist for a reason, and innovations are developed for a reason. I personally cook with the mentality that combining the two is exciting and yet familiar to people. It helps you make it your own and something truly special. But if grandma’s recipe is spot on, why fix what isn’t broken?

Tom Kaldy on Instagram: @cheftomkaldy, @thecharlesct

This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.