I love butternut squash. I like it oven roasted, mashed, as part of a tart, as a soup, boiled in beef stew – you name it, I’ll gobble it up. I love it in spite of the fact that my knives always seem to be dull and it has a tough covering.
Some of my friends tell me they avoid cooking this squash because it’s just too much trouble to peel. To this I say, then don’t peel it. A moderately sharp knife should cut a butternut squash in half when you use a little elbow grease. Once you’ve managed that, you’re well on your way to using it in some tasty preparations like these:
One of my favorite ways to prepare butternut squash is to oven roast it. I preheat the oven to 425º, clean the skin, remove the seeds, and cube it in one-inch cubes with the skin left on. Then I place the squash on a cast iron baking sheet skin side down, drizzle with olive oil, top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and roast for about 40 minutes. The skin gets brown and adds some pleasing texture to the squash.
Oven roasted squash is delicious by itself, but it becomes decadent when I take the hot squash from the oven, remove the thyme, then toss the squash with bleu cheese crumbles and Sahale Valdosta Pecans. This pecan blend contributes a bit of tart, sweet, and spice to the dish with its addition of cranberries, black pepper and orange zest.
If you like to share, this combination makes a great choice for a potluck contribution. You can roast the squash while you’re getting dressed for a party, then toss with the cheese and pecans just before you walk out the door.
Yesterday, I included butternut squash in some beef stew that I simmered for about an hour before serving. I prepared one-inch cubes in the same manner I described above, leaving the skin on. After an hour of cooking, the skin was perfectly tender and added enough body to the squash for it to hold its shape and keep from disintegrating into the broth. Because I had added a significant amount of red pepper, it was nice to have the natural sweetness of the squash to balance the heat.
Even though butternut squash is a winter squash, I find it in the supermarket all year long. That means it’s available in the summer for a bit of barbecue variety. Just clean the skin, slice in half, remove the seeds and core, then slice in large wedges, season, and throw on the grill.
The more experience you gain wielding a knife against this pale orange nemesis, the more comfortable you may become peeling the squash. That will open the door for a whole new set of preparations. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to throw one in your shopping cart. It doesn’t have to be peeled to be delicious!