the best ever roasted squash

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Dr. Beardface* and I consume astounding quantities of winter squash. Three big handsome squashes (butternut, delicata, and sweet dumpling) perch plumply on the table right now, awaiting their demise.

The Fella’s luscious roasted butternut squash galettes. As handsome and delicious as those are, they prove a tad too involved to stake out a spot in our daily or weekly repertoire. We’re far more likely to scarf down our squash in roasted form, and though often we simply toss it with oil and salt and plunk it into a hot oven, I like to take the extra two minutes of hands-on work that transforms plain roasted squash to the best ever roasted squash. Inspired by Laurie Colwin’s squash tian recipe**, the best ever roasted squash has been thoroughly transformed by time, habit, and hazy memory.

*a household endearment for The Fella that honors his stunning beard credentials.
**found in More Home Cooking, a book whose nominal place of honor on my kitchen shelf is usually a narrow empty space — the book itself is rarely far from my bedside, so alluring are its comforts.
I am participating in NaBloPoMo.


Preheat your oven to 425 F for a good long while. Let it get scorching hot. This is the single most important part of the recipe. If you just barely preheat, the squash will be a molten plate of goo, not a crispy caramelized delight. If you have a baking stone, so much the better.

Peel and seed a nice big butternut squash and dice into chunks — say, roughly one and one-half inches each. Toss with kosher salt, spread out on cutting board, and let sit for up to ten minutes, so the salt draws out some of the sweet juices from the squash.

Meanwhile, butter a big, shallow earthenware or Pyrex casserole.

In a big bowl toss a few tablespoons of flour with seasonings:
– oregano, crumbled first between your fingertips
– chili powder
– cumin
– crumbled rosemary (optional)
– freshly grated nutmeg
– Dr. Beardface likes cinnamon; me, not so much

Toss the squash with the seasoned flour, shake off excess, and dump all the dredged squash in the casserole. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, and spread in one layer. Bake for 45 minutes, turning occasionally to caramelize all sides, more or less.

Remove from oven and generously dust with freshly ground black pepper.
variation: if you like, 20 minutes before it’s done, sprinkle with minced garlic and/or a small handful of shredded Parmesan. Mmmmm.

The resulting chunks of soft-crispy squash differs substantially from Colwin’s dish, which produces a molten platter of goodness with a caramelized surface. The best ever roasted squash is slightly caramelized, soft inside its crispy edges, but with each piece of squash distinctly separate from its brethren. It is a tumble of contrasts on the plate: chewy and silky, earthy and spicy, smoky and sweet, tender and crispy.

We often eat this with a side of garlic-braised greens (kale, spinach, chard) or broccoli dressed with lemon, which makes a perfect slightly sharp contrast to the sweet-savory squash, and a basket of fresh bread, biscuits, or popovers.

Don’t toss out the seeds you scrape from the butternut. Wash and drain them, then try roasting them with or without chile-spiked sugar glaze.

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