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The Easiest Way to Cook a Winter Squash (and keep your fingers)

So it’s November and if you’re eating seasonally you might be staring at a big old winter squash. Maybe it’s butternut or pumpkin or acorn or, my personal favorite, kabocha – all of which have a tough outer skin that can be a bear to get through.

When I am making a dish that calls for peeled and diced squash I get out my large cutting board and big chef’s knife and hack off both the bottom and the top to create a flat surface it can stand on. Then I go about peeling it with that big chef’s knife. It takes a bit of time, but I don’t cook dishes that require diced squash all that often.

How we most frequently eat winter squash is simply roasted until soft. I then scoop the flesh out and top with plenty of butter and a sprinkle of salt. Making this delicious side dish is infinitely easier than the peeling, chopping, force, and precision required when one attempts to dismember one of these beasts.

When I first started cooking winter squash I did as I was told – cut in half, remove seeds, bake cut side down in a couple inches of water. And you know what, that was some pretty tasteless watered-down squash, the winter squash I remember from my childhood that made me think “I will never eat this when I’m an adult.”

So I decided I’d just cut it in half, remove the seeds, and roast it that way. The flavor was way better with the caramelization of the sweet flesh in the hot oven. That worked great for flavor, but then I found out you could make the process even easier.

I’ve got three words for you: Bake. It. Whole.

Yep, it can be as easy as a baked potato. Wash it and throw it in a 400 degree oven for 1-2 hours, or until tender, depending on the size of the squash.The seeds scoop out like butter after roasting so you don’t have to deal with that hassle either.

If you still want that lovely caramelized flavor that only occurs when the flesh is exposed to the dry heat of your oven then let it cook for 40-60 minutes, remove, and it will easily cut in half since much of the flesh and skin have softened. Then continue to roast it until tender.

And don’t forget the butter.

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