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Squash: Part 2 of 4 – Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

October 26, 2009

Who doesn’t want at least ONE easy dish on Thanksgiving? For the last two years I’ve made this Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake to rave reviews. It is a quick, holiday-appropriate and unfussy recipe from Elise Bauer’s wonderful Simply Recipes blog. This dish was submitted by Heidi H. of Carlisle, MA. Here, Elise takes us through creating “a colorful, simple harvest bake, with chopped butternut squash, tart apples, and cranberries.” This easy recipe can be made up to one day in advance and reheated in the oven before serving. Elise also suggests adding half a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans for a good counter-crunch.

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large tart cooking apples cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (can substitute ground nutmeg)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice and peel squash and apples. Put squash cubes in ungreased 7×11-inch baking dish. Place apples on top and then cranberries. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and mace and sprinkle on top. Dot with butter.
2. Bake 50-60 minutes.

Serves 8.

Buying tip: Around the holidays friends ask me if they should buy the prepared butternut squash that is already conveniently peeled, diced, and ready for use. After all, cutting up squash can be an intimidating process and, for the inexperienced cook either the hardest part of the recipe, or a total deal-breaker. But the answer is no; do not buy the prepared squash because you are trading in flavor and texture for convenience. While you might get lucky and occasionally score a good “bag,” prepared butternut squash is often woody, and almost always tough and with lackluster flavor.

I am including preparation tips that will make the preparing and cutting of the feared squash a lot less mysterious and onerous. When buying butternut squash, keep in mind that size is directly related to quality: smaller squash have a more intense flavor and a better texture than larger gourds which tend to have a more fibrous consistency and watery taste. Even better, smaller squash are easier to work with! Therefore, when shopping for a recipe that calls for a large amount of squash, it’s better to buy several smaller ones than one or two large ones. The right size is no bigger than 2.5 lb.

Preparation: Following are guidelines for cutting up squash. Once this task is done, the rest will be easy breezy, I promise!

1. Remove the tough outer skin with a peeler and then cut once cross-wise with a chef’s knife to separate the neck from the bulbous end.
2. Next, place the bulbous end of the squash cut side down on your cutting board to stabilize it and then cut in half again.
3. Scrape out the seeds using a spoon then cut each bulb half into half-inch moons, and those moons into half-inch dice.
4. For the neck of the squash trim one thin, long piece from the side of the squash to create a flat edge; lay the entire neck on its side, flat edge-down to create a stable surface.
5. Slice the squash lengthwise into half inch planks.  Cut each plank into half inch strips and then each strip into half inch dice.

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