At our Harvest Social event in Hill City last month, we had Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Crostini that were to die for so we just had to get the recipe. We met up with Chef Jennifer Schmoll from Prairie Berry to talk about the dish, the event and how she ended up as the event chef of Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City.
HFT: You served some delicious appetizers and desserts at the Harvest Social. What did you enjoy most about the event?
Chef Jennifer: I love the whole concept of connecting the farm to the table. That’s just the way I grew up and always wanted to incorporate that in my life and my work.
HFT: Tell us about your chef background. How did you find yourself at Prairie Berry?
Chef Jennifer: I have always worked in the tourism industry in some form or another. Cooking is just something I’ve always been passionate about. Like many people, I started out as a dishwasher. I’ve worked at the front of restaurants, in the back and at every job you can imagine.
We moved to Colorado about 10 years ago, and I stepped away from it for a few years, but then I had the opportunity to manage a restaurant/hotel in ski country for some of my friends. I realized I really missed working in tourism and hospitality. My sister works at Prairie Berry and let me know they were looking for a chef, so I jumped at the chance to move home. I love working in the state where I grew up, doing what I love.
HFT: How do you personally make the connection between food and farming?
Chef Jennifer: I grew up on a farm in Miller. We were active in 4H, so we would plant our own garden and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We raised chickens and beef to show. Farming and food have always been a part of my life.
HFT: Do you work with farmers to source food for your dishes at Prairie Berry?
Chef Jennifer: We work with local farmers as much as we can. One farmer provides a lot of produce for us. We make our jam locally here at Prairie Berry in Hill City, and we source as much local rhubarb as possible. As the season allows, we get local greens and herbs all year long. We love working directly with farmers and learning about what they do.
HFT: As a South Dakota native, what’s your favorite local or regional dish?
Chef Jennifer: Chislic is definitely our thing, and I love it. There are people all over the U.S. who have never heard of it. My boys grew up in Colorado and when we moved to South Dakota, they didn’t even know what it was. I said, “It’s fried steak – hello!”
Rhubarb is another really big thing in South Dakota. You go elsewhere in the U.S. and not a lot of people know what to do with it. I love incorporating South Dakota ingredients like that into my dishes.
If you couldn’t make it to the Harvest Social, don’t worry. You can still get a taste of the delicious food when you make Chef Jennifer’s Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Crostini.
Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Crostini
- 1 or 2 baguettes large, enough to get 20-25 pieces totals
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil divided
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil divided
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 1-1/2 cups butternut squash peeled, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoons brown sugar
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon Thyme fresh, chopped
- 1/2 cups dried cranberries
- 18 sage leaves fresh
- 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled, divided
- 1 teaspoons Garlic
- 4 ounces Cream Cheese softened
- 1 tablespoons orange zest
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Slice baguette into 1/2-inch thick rounds and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake 8-12 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. You want them slightly crisp and golden.
- Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add butternut squash, sprinkle with brown sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, 20-25 minutes or until squash is fork tender and beginning to caramelize. In last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in fresh thyme. Remove from heat and stir in cranberries. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
- Return skillet to medium heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add sage leaves and fry 20-30 seconds per side. Drain on paper towels and chop.
- In bowl or food processor, combine 1/4 cup Gorgonzola, 1 teaspoon garlic and the softened cream cheese. Purée until cheese is whipped and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. You may need to add just a bit of heavy cream or milk to help smooth the cream cheese mixture.
- Spread whipped Gorgonzola mixture onto each piece of crostini. To serve, top crostini with spoonful of caramelized butternut squash and cranberries, the other 1/4 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola, and sprinkle with fresh orange zest, fried sage and cracked black pepper.
You can make everything up the day before, just don’t slice or toast the baguette. Put the cream cheese/Gorgonzola mixture in a piping bag (no tip) or a small Ziploc bag. The next day, assemble the crostini by piping on the cream cheese mixture first and top with the squash mixture. Minutes before you’re ready to serve, heat them through in the oven for about 8 minutes or until everything is warm. Add the toppings and voilà!