Monday, September 28, 2009

Acorn Squash

One of the things we got this week from the CSA was an acorn squash that weighed one ounce shy of 2 pounds. Jason and I have never cared for winter squash when served by our parents in the past, and so I put off making it. But, I didn't want to waste it, so I looked up "acorn squash" on my favorite food website, Cook's Illustrated, and found their method of cooking it. (Cook's Illustrated is like the Consumer Reports of food - you have to pay for a subscription to their website; $25 a year; and they do recipe testing, equipment testing, and product testing that is all unbiased and really reliable.) Anyway, the acorn squash was a big hit. It tasted so delicious, and was wonderfully textured. Here is the article and recipe from Cook's Illustrated:

Tired of mealy, stringy squash that takes an hour to bake? We wanted it faster and better.

The Problem

After what seems like eons in the oven, it often lands on the table with little flavor and a dry, grainy texture.

The Goal

At its rare best, it is characterized by a sweet, almost nutty taste and moist, smooth flesh - a result that should not take hours.

The Solution

Believe it or not, microwaving took first place in cooking methods, presenting a squash that was tender and silky smooth, with nary a trace of dryness or stringiness. Hammering out the details was easy: Microwave on high power for 20 minutes, and the squash is perfectly cooked. It was best to halve and seed the squash before cooking; whole pierced squash cooked unevenly. Last, I learned that when added before cooking, salt seemed to better permeate the squash. Filling in the only remaining gap, equal portions of butter and dark brown sugar gave the squash ample - not excessive - sweetness. And for a smooth, cohesive filling mixture, combining the butter and sugar with a pinch of salt and briefly broiling the final product eliminated the nagging sticky glaze problem.

Squash smaller than 1 1/2 pounds will likely cook a little faster than the recipe indicates, so begin checking for doneness a few minutes early. Conversely, larger squash will take slightly longer to cook. However, keep in mind that the cooking time is largely dependent on the microwave. If microwaving the squash in Pyrex, the manufacturer recommends adding water to the dish (or bowl) prior to cooking. To avoid a steam burn when uncovering the cooked squash, peel back the plastic wrap very carefully, starting from the side that is farthest away from you.


2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved pole to pole and seeded

table salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar


  1. Sprinkle squash halves with salt and place halves cut-sides down in 13- by 9-inch microwave-safe baking dish. If using Pyrex, add 1/4 cup water to dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, using multiple sheets, if necessary; with paring knife, poke about 4 steam vents in plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until squash is very tender and offers no resistance when pierced with paring knife, 15 to 25 minutes. Using potholders, remove baking dish or bowl from oven and set on clean, dry surface (avoid damp or cold surfaces).

  2. While squash is cooking, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element); heat broiler. Melt butter, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally, until combined.

  3. When squash is cooked, carefully pull back plastic wrap from side farthest from you. Using tongs, transfer cooked squash cut-side up to rimmed baking sheet. Spoon portion of butter/sugar mixture onto each squash half. Broil until brown and caramelized, 5 to 8 minutes, rotating baking sheet as necessary and removing squash halves as they are done. Set squash halves on individual plates and serve immediately.

1 comment:

Heather S. said...

I always cook squash in the microwave, but I microwave it with the butter and brown sugar for the entire amount of time. I've never tried broiling it at the end and adding the butter/brown sugar then. i'll have to try it.