Is there a cozier vegetable than winter squash? The creamy denseness of the flesh, along with its rich honey and amber tones, makes each bite soothing and satisfying to eat.
Unfortunately, the precursor to the comforting experience of eating squash is some burdensome prep work. Taking a knife to a giant rock‑hard squash (even a modest-size butternut can be a struggle) isn’t for the faint of heart, never mind that peeling its tough skin is a real chore.
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Allow me to suggest an alternative: crenellated, creamy yellow delicata squash. These beauties boast thin, edible striped skin that softens when cooked. Their small size means they are relatively easy to cut and seed, which makes preparation a snap.
Oven roasting is a great option since mild delicata is complemented by flavorful browning. The squash can then be finished with fresh herbs or a simple sauce.
Most recipes call for simply arranging oiled squash slices on a baking sheet and roasting. But as the squash cooks, its water evaporates, leaving each piece with a leathery surface and a dry interior. Senior Editor Lan Lam had better luck by oven-steaming the squash under a layer of foil until tender and then removing the foil to brown the exterior. The golden slices look gorgeous, and each bite features a slightly resilient strip of skin and toasty squash flavor.
Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of this standout squash.
Vegetables IllustratedThis is the book for anyone looking for fresh, modern ways to add more vegetables to their diet—which is just about all of us. And this exciting guide could have come from only Cook’s Illustrated.
How to Buy, Store, and Prep Delicata Squash
- Delicata is available from late summer through early winter.
- Choose squashes that are similar in size and shape to ensure even cooking.
- Small woody patches on the skin are OK, but avoid squashes with soft spots, bruises, or mold.
- Store delicata as you would other winter squashes: at room temperature in a cool, dry spot. It will last at least 10 days.
- There is no need to peel the edible skin. Simply pare away any tough patches and trim off woody ends.
- To halve the squash lengthwise, insert the tip of a chef’s knife into the center of the squash and then cut down through flesh. Rotate squash 180 degrees and repeat motion.
How to Roast Delicata Squash
1. Halve and seed the squash, then slice them ½ inch thick—skin and all—and toss them with oil and salt.
2. Spread the slices into an even layer on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with aluminum foil, and place it on the lower rack of a 425-degree oven. The foil will trap steam and ensure that each bite of squash cooks up creamy and moist.
3. Remove the foil and return the sheet to the oven. Within minutes, any residual moisture will evaporate and the starches and sugars on the surface of the squash will begin to brown.
4. After 15 minutes, flip the squash and dot the slices with butter. As the milk solids in the butter brown, they will reinforce the roasted delicata squash’s subtle flavor. Let the second side turn deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.