Written by Chef John Brennan
Any New Englander knows that during the fall and wintertime in the North east, it is the perfect time to take advantage of cooking up some local squash treats like butternut, honey nut, delicata, carnival, hubbard, sugar pumpkins and many more artisan varietals. Here are a few of our favorite squash available in and around New England and our favorite ways to cook them!
Butternut Squash- The butternut has a most unlikely origin…it was bred by a Charles Leggett of Stow, Massachusetts in the mid-1940s. He was not a plant breeder but had been forced to leave the city for the country because of his father’s health. The house he purchased came with a fair amount of land, so he decided to develop a good-tasting squash big enough for a family to consume. Hubbard squashes were too big, in his opinion, while Halloween pumpkins were there for scaring people rather than eating…so Leggett took a gooseneck squash, which was long and gangly, and crossed it with other squashes, made selections from there and the rest is history. Be warned depending how you prepare this squash, make sure your knife is sharp if you are attempting to peel the squash. We like this squash peeled, cut into small cubes, tossed in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and roasted at 400F for 12-15 minutes. While the squash is roasting dice up a bell pepper, onion, a few cloves of garlic and sauté’ at medium heat in a large sauté pan. When your squash is done cooking add it to the pan and stir together with a pinch of fresh minced herbs to make some butternut squash hash! It’s a perfect side dish for braised BBQ pot roast or maple glazed salmon!
Delicata Squash- also known as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash it is favored for its delicate, edible skin. No peeling required! So, if you love the taste of butternut squash but don’t like the hassle of peeling that hard, impossible rind… delicata squash may be your new favorite. We like slicing this squash in rings, removing the seeds and tossing it in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin and roasting it in a convection oven for 12 minutes at 400F. Remove from the oven and eat warm over a fall salad with a drizzle of maple syrup and your into something good!
Honey Nut Squash- You may have seen this popular varietal at the farmers market and wondered why is that butternut squash so small? In a nutshell, the honeynut was born after the super famous chef Dan Barber challenged a Cornell University Professor in Plant Breeding and Genetics to invent a butternut-like squash that tasted good and was smaller. Two years later, the honeynut squash arrived!
Now here is where the story gets really interesting…Typically, plants are bred for yield instead of flavor…not the case with the final honeynut contender, which was selected for flavor and even more specifically for “dry-roasting,” a specific cooking technique recommended by Dan Barber. Roasting at high-heat brings out its rich, caramel-y, and intense natural sweetness. Plus, their thin skins mean they do not have to be peeled! They also have three times the amount of beta-carotene! We suggest cutting this squash in half, deseeding it, drizzle on a touch of olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper, salt and roast at 450F for 15-18minutes or until fork tender. Once removed from the oven use a fork to mix up the innards of the squash gently with a touch of butter, parmesan cheese, top with a poached egg, a few small drops of pepper jelly and maybe some bread for dipping!