Acorn Squash

Impulsive would probably not be a word used to describe me.  I mull most decisions over way longer than is probably healthy, and often even after I make a decision, I find myself questioning if it was the right one.  The one exception?  Grocery shopping.  Set me loose in a grocery store and you can almost be certain that I’ll come out with at least one impulse purchase.  Case in point: earlier this week I had run out to grab just a few things, I even had a list which is rare for me.  Yet I found myself in the produce section pondering varieties of winter squash I didn’t need.  I left with this guy, and absolutely no idea what I’d do with him:

Squash

Perhaps you’ve tried it, but if not, this is an acorn squash.  As I’ve mentioned before, butternut squash is one of my favorite veggies, and I’ve long wondered if I’d enjoy other winter squash varieties as much.  The first thing I did was sit down with a stack of cookbooks and magazines looking for a suitable recipe.  When I came upon this one in Cook’s Country, I knew it was the winner; the squash was roasted (one of the best ways to eat veggies in my opinion) and brushed with a sweet glaze that included maple syrup.  I enjoy butternut squash most when I add a touch of sweetness so I figured it would bode well for the acorn squash to give it the same treatment.     

The squash is really easy to prepare.  You don’t have to worry about peeling it, the skin is edible and becomes tender in the oven.  Cut the squash in half through the stem and you’ll find seeds and pulp in the center.  Scoop them out with a spoon – you can save the seeds if you want and roast them to snack on. 

Squash

For this recipe you just need to cut each half into 4 wedges after you remove the seeds and pulp.  The wedges are tossed with vegetable oil, salt, pepper and a bit of sugar then laid cut (flesh) side down on a rimmed baking sheet and popped into the preheated oven.

Squash

Meanwhile, you make the glaze, which is only 3 ingredients – maple syrup, butter and cayenne pepper.  The maple syrup is reduced and thickened, which helps it cling to the squash later when it’s brushed on.  Once the butter and cayenne are added, the glaze looked and smelled a lot like caramel, which is a good thing in my book!  The glaze is applied toward the end of the squash’s cooking time.

Squash

The verdict?  This was a delicious impulse purchase :)  The squash caramelized nicely in the oven.  I liked the flesh a lot – it was more fibrous than butternut but very tender and earthy.  I wasn’t as big a fan of the skin, but the flesh and skin were so tender it was easy to separate them.  The glaze was the real star of the show though – very caramel-y and sweet – but not in a way that overpowered the squash itself.  It was thick and clung to the squash nicely when brushed on.  I love the simplicity and flavor of this recipe and it’s definitely a repeat here, though I think butternut still remains my first choice when it comes to winter squash.       

Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash
from Cook’s Country, March 2011

2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 475 F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each squash in half through the stem.  Scoop out the seeds and pulp from both halves.  Cut each half into 4 equal wedges.  In a large bowl, toss the squash wedges with the vegetable oil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Arrange the squash, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bottoms of the squash are golden brown.

While the squash is baking, prepare the glaze.  Pour the syrup into a small saucepan and set it over medium to medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the syrup has thickened a bit, about 3 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cayenne pepper; whisk to combine.  Cover the pan to keep the glaze warm, and set it aside.

Once the bottoms of the squash are golden, remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Flip the wedges over, and brush them (the sides that had been down) with about 2/3 of the glaze.  Return to the oven and bake until the squash is tender and deep golden.  Flip the wedges again, and brush the side that is now facing up with the remaining glaze then serve.