Friday, October 4, 2013

Peeling, Cutting and Generally Not Struggling with Butternut Squash

If you've never cooked with butternut squash, or if you've attempted to cook with it and have considered throwing it out a 4 story window to get to the flesh, then allow me to take the frustration out of it.

You see, last year when we got butternut squash in the Crop Share, I'd never cooked with it before and silly me, I figured it would be so simple to cut into it.  So out came my fancy, super sharp knife was like I gave the thing a paper cut.  I was practically jumping up and down on the thing, and I could barely make a dent.  So I called to the Mister to have him look up how to cut and peel a butternut squash.  He found a video much like this Martha Stewart video, that made it look soooo effortless and simple.  Oh, so I need to peel it first, okay, no problem.  I might as well have tried to peel it with my shoelaces for all the good my peeler did.  As I yelled "lies, lies, all LIES!!!" at the stupid squash, the Mister went back to consulting Chef Google.  Ah ha!  Apparently you can microwave it to soften the skin!  Perfect, for how long?  3-4 minutes?  Excellent.  About two minutes later...BAM!  And not in that fun Emeril kind of way, in that oh dear Lord, everyone hit the deck, something has exploded and we're all going to die kind of way.  The whole squash didn't explode, but enough of it burst out that I now had to add cleaning squash goo out of the microwave to the growing list of prep work for dinner.  All I wanted was to make gnocchi with butternut squash and sage!!!

Eventually I did peel and cube the squash, after much cursing and several close calls with self-amputation.  And while the pasta was delicious, I did NOT want to have to go through that ordeal ever again.  So to help ensure that you do not have a similar experience this weekend, here are my helpful tips for peeling, cutting and generally not struggling with butternut squash.

Step 1:  Pierce skin of squash, especially down by the seed ball as that's where most of the steam will build up, several times and microwave on high for 3 minutes.  You can even microwave in 1 minute increments if you're worried about recreating my kitchen explosion.

Step 2:  Using a sharp knife, slice off top and bottom of squash to create a flat surface on either end.

Step 3:  Grab your vegetable peeler and gradually peel off skin from top to bottom.  You may have to go over it a few times to get down to just the flesh, as there will be an inner, greenish layer under the main skin that you'll want to peel off to.

Step 4:  Once all the skin is peeled off, slice squash in half from top to bottom.

Step 5:  Scoop out seeds and stringy flesh from seed ball portion.  (For a great recipe on roasting the seeds, see this recipe from The Shiksa In The Kitchen)

Step 6:  At this point you can either prepare to roast each half whole, slice it into pieces for roasting, or cube into 1" pieces for roasting, sauteing or pureeing.

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