Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's talk about squash

Wherein this was served with some oven roasted potato wedges and pan-fried steak finished off in the oven; while the steak rested I reduced some red wine and scraped up the fond, then finished with some butter and poured over the steak

Previously, in my adventures with acorn squash.

After a lifetime of avoidance, I've come to appreciate the squash over the last couple of years. My problem had been one of texture. Most often it had been served to me in a casserole, and the mushy mess just makes me gag. Even yellow squash baked beyond recognition. The wife likes squash, so I started cooking with it trying to find some way for me to eat it. I quickly found that the summer squashes--zucchini and yellow--worked well with just a quick saute. Throw in some seasoning, maybe some cider vinegar or reduced white wine, and just barely heat (seriously, just 3-4 minutes max). The key is to leave them nice and firm. Splitting the squash and scraping the seeds gets rid of a lot of mush causing moisture.

This isn't surprising, as I prefer my vegetables to still be crispy or raw.

Winter squashes are a little different and require longer cooking. I've found I can go with a softer texture with a lot of these, but I still have to be careful with the butternut squash. Spaghetti squash is a wonderful find and I've found it helps to undercook a bit before scraping it out in strands. Then finish it to al dente by tossing it in a pan with some butter and grated romano. Treat it just like pasta.

Which gets me back to the acorn squash. This time I decided to dice it and bake it. Because of all the ridges, they're a pain to peel. A peeler isn't much help, so it's best to slice of the ends and use the chef knife. Once it's peeled, split it open, scrape the seeds, and slice and dice. Set the oven to 400, dumped into an ovenproof dish, stirred in a handful of brown sugar, grated about half a stick of butter, a sprinkling of nutmeg, tossed and backed about 40 minutes. Gave a stir a couple times while cooking.

Turned out ok. Of course the butter and brown sugar carmelized quite nicely and the squash was nicely sweet without tasting like a candied pumpkin casserole. It was a little greasy, with the liquid cooked out of the squash mingling with the melted butter. I'd like to get more of a roasted product, so the next time I'll try the following:
  1. Dice the squash, salt, and let rest on a wire rack over the sink for 20-30 minutes to try and draw out some of the water.
  2. Spread out on a pan and bake for maybe 30-40 minutes, or until the desired texture is reached.
  3. As the squash finishes cooking, add butter and brown sugar to a skillet. I'd go with maybe a quarter stick of butter and a quarter cup of brown sugar. I want to lightly coat the roasted squash, not make desert.
  4. Toss squash with butter/brown sugar and lightly dust with nutmeg.
  5. Serve and eat.

Another idea with the acorn squash would be a twist on the twice-baked potato. Split, scoop and roast about 40 minutes. Scrape flesh out and throw into the KitchenAid with some roasted pecans, goat cheese, and a touch of maple syrup. Scoop back into squash shells and cook about another 15 minutes. Maybe sprinkle some mleted butter mixed with bread crumbs to toast on top. That sounds good.

Let's Talk About Squash
(by salt and pepper)
Let's talk about squash, baby
Let's talk about umami
Let's talk about all the good things
That you'll cook for me
Let's talk about squash

Let's talk about squash and don't forget
zucchini is courgette
You can bake a pie
And the hot dish you can't deny
Cuz that ain't gonna stop it
Now we talk about squash
Many will know anything goes
Let's tell how to bake it, and how scrape it
How it was, and of course, how it should be
All right then, come on, chop it

Let's talk about squash, baby
Let's talk about umami
Let's talk about all the good things
That you'll cook for me
Let's talk about squash


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