RECIPE #318, DAY #513
ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Crispy Baked Butternut Squash” from Anne Willan on The Food Network*
TIMING: 1 hour
DIFFICULTY: Easy, if you can figure out how to peel and cut a squash
TOOLS: A baking sheet, aluminum foil, a good knife, a sharp veggie peeler, and a spatula
COOK TYPE: Oven, roasting
HEALTH: You could point out all the pros of eating squash, and you would be right. However, in this particular recipe, the squash acts as an oil sponge, and if you introduce too much oil you will end up with a greasy mess. So be smart, and enjoy all your vitamins.
EXPERIENCE: This was actually one of the very first recipes I made for my extended family after I discovered cooking. It must have been a holiday, and we were at my mom’s, and I had the job of making the squash. (I remember, too, that my aunt made blue cheese-stuffed artichokes and not only blew me away but also ushered me into the adult world of liking blue cheese.) Everyone liked them then, and everyone still likes this recipe now.
My palate is much more refined than it used to be, though, and I noticed some things about this squash when I whipped it up for a family dinner-plus-one. First, the squash acts as a sponge to the oil and butter, so being spare on the grease–despite the instructions in the original recipe–will be more prudent, not just for health reasons but also for taste. I can just see Scott Conant pressing down on my squash with the back of his fork tines and telling me my entree side is inedible. And I would have to agree.
Also, in general, due to the natural sugars and density of the butternut, this ends up a velvety/intense, heavy/luxurious side, so it is always going to need some sort of lightness and brightness (not to mention vegetalness, like fresh parsley) alongside to balance it. In my imaginary Chopped episode, I would realize in the last seconds that I needed to squirt the blasted squash with lemon and top with a chopped parsley and microgreen salad. I would also have married it with pork and applesauce, so we’d be okay.
Still, it’s a popular one, so enjoy.
NOTES: Breaking down a butternut squash can be trying and even time-consuming. To begin with, you need a good, large knife, a sharp vegetable peeler, and a sense of humor. On a large cutting board, begin by chopping off the ends. Then, peel (somewhat forcefully) with a peeler (or a paring knife, if you’re a masochist). Carefully (and still forcefully) cut the squash, lengthwise, in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard ends, peels, and seeds. Now, cut up your squash (forcefully) into whatever shapes you need. For this recipe, slice into 3/4 inch thick half-moons.
You can actually leave the skins on for this recipe, but it is unlikely they will become any more edible, leaving your guests to have to do the dirty work of removing them. Apparently, though, the skins do impart more flavor to the squash (and save you time and effort in removing them).
If you cut the squash even thinner (like less than 1/2 inch thick), you will get crispier squash, but you may need more than one pan to lay them out (depending, of course, on the size of your pan and your squash).
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Oil or butter a sheet pan. Line up 1 half-mooned squash so that the slices do not overlap. Brush them lightly with safflower or grape seed oil, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary, 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, and 3 randomly placed bay leaves.
- Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil, and bake another 15-20 minutes, until undersides are browned and crisp and squash is tender. Give it a quick broil to brown the tops, if not browned already.
Serve with–as stated in my above fantasy–pork loin or chops and applesauce, as well as a parsley and microgreen chopped salad with lemon.
*Recipe changed from the original.