Squash was New World dish
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 7, 2015
In the beginning there was squash. One of the first crops cultivated in North America, squash was a staple crop so essential that some Native Americans considered it holy. The early colonists found the Native Americans cooking fresh squash, drying the flesh and the seeds for long storage, and weaving thin desiccated strips of rind into mats. The most common type of winter squash grown by the Native Americans was pumpkins, so early colonists tended to call all squashes by that name. Although it seems like a cliché, pumpkin was probably served at the first Thanksgiving, probably in pies and as a sweet made by stuffing them with honey and spices and roasting them in embers.
Both summer and winter squash are gourds. The difference between them is mainly a matter of maturity, which affects how and when we use them. Summer squash is harvested when young, so the skins and seeds are soft and edible. We eat them soon after harvest, usually during the summer. Winter squash is harvested when fully mature. So the skins and seeds are hard and thick. Thanks to those sturdy shells, winter squash are good keepers, so they can be eaten after harvest in warm weather and also kept through the winter.
My husband is producing some acorn squash and it does have a hard skin to cut. I like it when he brings in the small ones since they are easier to cut. I cut them in half and bake them in a hot oven for about 30 minutes and then I can remove the skin and chop in small bites. In thinking of side dishes for Thanksgiving I found a wonderful squash dish using either butternut squash or acorn squash or a combination of both. Why not try these winter squashes? They are healthy and delicious! They will be a wonderful addition to you Thanksgiving table.
Butternut Squash (or Acorn Squash) with Caramelized Onions
Makes 8 servings
Medium butternut squash about 2 ½ pounds or 2 medium acorn squashes
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 cups freshly grated aged Gouda or Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 cups thinly sliced onions (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13 inch glass dish or ceramic baking dish.
Cut the neck away from the base of the squash. Cut the stem end off the neck and then stand the neck upright on the cutting board, using its flat bottom to steady it. Use a heavy knife to cut away the hard skin in downward strokes. Trim away any remnants of skin with a sharp vegetable peeler. Cut the plank into ½-inch-thick planks. Cut each plank into ½-inch cubes. Cut the walls of the base from around the seeds. Peel the pieces with the vegetable peeler and then place them flat-side down on the cutting board to cut into ½-inch cubes. (Or you can roast them like I suggested which makes it easier).
Mix the bread crumbs, cheese, rosemary, and thyme in a small bowl.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the squash, sugar, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring often until the squash is tender and the onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the squash mixture into the prepared baking dish. Pour the stock evenly over the top.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Uncover the squash, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and bake uncovered until the top is golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes before serving warm.
This dish had a wonderful taste and easy to prepare so a win-win all the way around.