Okay, I admit it. There was a time when my eyes glazed over recipes for butternut squash. My Inner Knife Phobia whispered, "How in the world would you cut one of those things without losing a finger? A butternut squash is door-stop dense." It tempted, "Just go buy squash cubes at Trader Joe's. No cutting, no peeling. Who cares if they're all dry and unappetizing?"
You too? Well, you are in luck! This post illustrates, step by step, how to cut up a butternut squash. It's so easy, the squash will practically cut up itself. Just think of all that squash we've been missing ...
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
A cutting board
A silicone mat, if you have one
A sharp knife
A grapefruit spoon comes in handy although a fork works fine
Well, except, yes, you'll need a butternut squash, that's one of the tan-colored squash seen in the market during the fall and winter. Let's get started.
STUMBLEUPON: For all who use the great discovery tool StumbleUpon, I'd love for this post to be 'stumbled'!
2011 Update: If you're still worried about keeping all those fingers, or have trouble cutting because of arthritis or other mobility issues, it's perfectly easy to cook a whole butternut squash, see How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash.
|First, wash the squash. Two reasons. |
If there's something yucky-gucky on the squash's skin, just cutting into it with your knife will transfer the yuck-guck to the part you will eat. And onto the cutting board where you'll be cutting up more stuff. This is called 'cross contamination. Not good!
Second, I'm going do my best to talk you into making a lovely orange-colored stock with the skins so while you're at it, get out a saucepan, willya please?
|What, you noticed? Yes I switched squash and yes, I admit it, three squash were sacrificed, just so that you could learn how to, well, sacrifice more. It's a worthy cause.|
(UPDATE! I learned a new trick when making Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple. Before getting all fancy-pants with a knife, cook the squash in the microwave for 3 minutes. It will soften the skin and make all this extra easy-peasy!)
If you have a silicone mat, put it on the counter, then put the cutting board on top, it'll slip around less.
Now slice off the stem end and the other end, that's what we call the 'blossom' end because it's where the squash plant's flower comes from. Yes, you've wandered into Squash Anatomy 101.
|Off with her head!|
Slice the 'neck' off the squash, that's the longer skinnier part. It's easier to work with the squash in manageable pieces.
The best thing about the neck? The flesh is just a tad sweeter, a tinge smoother, than the flesh from the bulb end. Covet it!
|Stand the neck on its end, so, flat side down. With a knife, slice off the skin in swaths, starting at the top, slicing down. Try to take off all the skin, leaving as much of the orange flesh as possible.|
Because you'll ask: I've had no luck with vegetable peelers, even the strong y-shaped peelers, so I always use a knife.
|Now isn't this easy? |
Just slice through the neck to create pretty little rounds of squash. If you want half-inch cubes, you'll want the rounds to be about a half inch thick. If you want one-inch cubes, you'll want the rounds to be ... oh, you know.
Or, just stop here. If you cut the rounds quite thin, you can cook them in a skillet or on a griddle. Just rub with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They're delicious!
|Stack two or three rounds on top of each other. No, this isn't dominoes, no knocking the stack over. Cut through the rounds to form lengths.|
|Okay, if there's a tricky part, it's this. The idea is to use the fingers of your non-knife hand to hold the whole thing together while you cut the other way. It's not hard, just don't – ouch! – cut too close.|
Just look at all those neat 'n' tidy little cubes of squash! Aren't they pretty?
|Enough nuzzling with the neck. Onto the bulb. |
Place it cut-side down and with your knife at an angle, slice off the skin, working top to bottom. Because of the bulb's curve, I usually do the top half first ...
|... and then turn it over and repeat the process. Regular slashers, we are.|
|Cut the bulb in half, cutting through all the seeds and gunk inside.|
|Grab that grapefruit spoon -- that's the one with the serrated edge and it's ever so useful to have around that I'll just wait a moment while you go buy one, okay? Back so soon? Perfect. Otherwise, just grab a fork. |
Dig out all that stuff, using the serrated edge of the spoon or the tines of a fork.
Remember the saucepan? Drop the gunk, seeds and all, plus the skins into it and cover with water. Add a bay leaf and a few peppercorns and a rib of chopped celery, maybe a carrot or onion. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, strain and you'll have a lovely broth for soup, stews, sauces. (What, not interested in broth? Maybe Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seeds?)
|Place one bulb flat-side down and then cut it into lengths ...|
|... and then into cubes.|
|And now the payoff! Toss the squash cubes with a chopped apple and a chopped onion, toss with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roast at 400F for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Delicious!|
~ My Favorite Winter Squash Recipes ~
~ Steamed Butternut Squash ~
~ Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar ~
~ Warm Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~