Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
1 small butternut squash
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pint whole milk ricotta cheese
½ pound Neese’s Hickory Smoked Bacon, diced small
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped
1 cup red wine
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
Olive oil as needed
1 loaf rustic sourdough bread sliced 1-inch thick on the bias
Preheat oven to 400°F convection and 450°F for non-convection ovens.
Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Wrap each half in aluminum foil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender. While still warm, use a spoon to scoop out the tender squash from the skin and place in a bowl. Smash with a spoon. Set aside.
Strain ricotta cheese through a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth to remove the excess moisture, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon with the shallot. When the bacon is crisp, add the garlic and sweat for a minute.
Add cherries, red wine, sugar, and thyme sprigs. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove the thyme sprigs.
Coat the bottom of a cast-iron or heavy-bottom skillet with a thin layer of olive oil, and place slices of bread on top. Turn heat to medium-high, and toast until bread is golden-brown, about 6 minutes, adding more oil if the pan becomes dry. Turn the bread over and toast for a minute on the other side (this side doesn’t need as long). Repeat until all slices have are golden-brown.
Spread a portion of the ricotta cheese onto the bread, then a spoonful of the butternut squash. Top with the bacon-cherry compote. Sprinkle with thyme.