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Challenging Element: Spaghetti Squash


Food is by nature steeped in tradition; that’s how it’s done best. So it’s no surprise that when Patrick Hartnett, the executive chef of Kachina, heard that the mystery ingredient for this challenge would be locally-grown spaghetti squash, he looked to the Native American cultures of the Southwest for his inspiration.

His concept for this dish was centered on the Native American farming technique called the three sisters.

“The three sisters came from a type of farming invented by the Native Americans in symbiotic farms,” Hartnett said.

When the three sisters—corn, beans and squash—are grown together, they help each other survive. The idea is that while the corn gives the beans a stalk to climb, the squash spreads out all around and protects the corn from weeds. The beans make the soil rich with nitrogen.

What Hartnett prepared was chicken of the three sisters. In keeping with the Southwest tradition, the chicken was prepared with a spicy achiote rub made from annatto paste. The squash and chicken were cooked separately and then a second time together with the spaghetti squash wrapping the chicken. This not only provided some welcome relief from the usual use of spaghetti squash simply as a bed or delivery system for other flavors but instead allowed the mild sweetness of the squash to blend with the spice of the achiote and other heartier aspects of the dish. The plate was given a pinto bean sauce with smoked chili oil and grilled baby corn shucked in house.

Hartnett’s dish was delicious and full of complex flavor arrangements—although for my taste the heat could’ve been turned up a notch or two. However, this was easily remedied with judicious use of Kachina’s house-made habanero sauce, which adds its own flavor to the mix.

The presentation of the three sisters captured their symbiotic nature. Hartnett kept this dish true to its Southwestern roots even through the plating.

Taking over the old O’s Steakhouse space in the Westin and bringing the spirit of the Southwest to Westminster was no easy feat. Kachina has risen to the challenge and captured the bold flavor of the Southwest.

Kachina Southwestern Grill is located at 10600 Westminster Blvd., Westminster. Learn more at kachinagrill.com.

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