When I first moved to Portland from Los Angeles, I was told that I must eat at Toro Bravo. I was warned that the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. I was told to expect a long (2+ hour!) wait. But, everyone declared that the wait was worth it.
The people of Portland have long adored Toro Bravo, but I just couldn’t find it in me to wait for two hours for dinner. I’m far too impatient (and I knew I would get far too hangry).
That said, it took me 4 years to finally visit Toro Bravo. I planned to arrive early on a weeknight, in hopes to evade the crowds. Much to my surprise and delight, I was seated right away. Over the course of the evening, I tried a number of different dishes and they were all ridiculously good. However, there was one dish that stood out above the rest: the Harissa-stewed butternut squash. It was incredible — smoky, spicy, rich, warm, and comforting. I devoured the squash and considered ordering another. (And, yes, I’ll admit that I should have tried Toro Bravo years ago. Why did I wait so long?!)
I’ll admit that I crave this dish often. It’s completely addicting. I’ve braved the lines at Toro Bravo a couple of times since that night, specifically for the squash. You can image my elation, then, when I discovered that the new Toro Bravo cookbook included a recipe for the dish!
Let me tell you, the ability to make this dish at home is a real game changer. I might never leave my house again, except to go to the store for more squash and harissa.
TORO BRAVO’S HARISSA-STEWED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Adapted from “Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.” and Portland Monthly Magazine.
Notes on the recipe: The original recipe calls for Rose Petal Harissa, but says that you can sub regular harissa. I used regular harissa, but the kind I have is particularly spicy, so I cut it with a bit of tomato paste (which also added color and flavor to the dish).
1 butternut squash (2–3 lb)
4 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp harissa
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Several dollops soft goat cheese
1. Using a sharp knife, halve the squash. Trim off the skin, scoop out the seeds, and dice into 1/2″ cubes.
2. Heat two large skillets over medium-high heat. Place two tablespoons of butter in each pan. Once the butter has melted and is beginning to brown, place half of the squash in one pan and half in the other. Season squash with salt and pepper.
3. Allow squash to cook untouched for the 3 minutes, or until brown on one side. Toss and allow the squash to cook a few more minutes, until nicely browned.
4. Pour squash into one pan, remove from heat, and set aside. Add a bit of olive oil to the empty skillet and cook onion and garlic over medium-high heat. Stir often and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the squash into the pan with the onions and garlic, and stir to combine. Add in the harissa, cream, tomato paste, and paprika. Allow to cook, uncovered, until squash is fork tender and beginning to fall apart (30+ minutes). Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed.
6. Pour the mixture into shallow baking dishes and sprinkle dollops of goat cheese over the top. Broil for 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve immediately.