Most of the recipes I see for winter squash use it in casseroles and puréed soups, but when I picked one up recently I was looking for something simpler--something that would showcase the ingredient all on its own. I was tempted by recipes for ravioli and risotto, but eventually settled on something that would do nothing to obscure the wonderful flavor and texture, presenting the squash simply, as-is, braised with a little garlic then caramelized over high heat. It came courtesy of my worn copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
My biggest hurdle was peeling the squash itself, because usually I just roast them skin-on and scoop out the flesh. The outer layer was too tough for a vegetable peeler, but my paring knife did the trick (though I narrowly avoided lopping off a finger). The next day I read about an even easier way: Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, then cut each half lengthwise into 1-inch strips. It's then pretty easy to lay the piece on their sides and cut away the skin.
This dish would have been wonderful on its own, but to make it a full meal it ended up in a salad with shaved Pecorino.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 1/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup stock or water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, then add the oil and garlic and cook until the garlic softens and begins to color, 2-3 minutes. Add the squash pieces and stock or water, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook until the squash is nearing tender but still quite firm, 5 to 15 minutes depending on piece size.
Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir occasionally as the liquid cooks away and the squash begins to brown, an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook until the pieces are well-caramelized, even beginning to crisp.
Adjust for seasoning, and toss with parsley off the heat.