October 25, 2012
Squashes can be intimating to cut, but you’ll have the best tasting meal when using the freshest ingredients. Since it’s peak season for many squashes, and you can find in every shape and size at the store or farmers market now, I thought I’d share my tips for how to safely cut one. Trust me, just try cutting the darn thing instead of buying pre-cut or canned squash because you’ll taste the difference.
First, set up your cutting station:
1. Wet a large dish towel and place it underneath your cutting board to prevent the board from slipping.
2. Make sure your knives are nice and sharp – trust me, this will help your cause.
3. For cutting a squash like this, I’ve found that working at a lower area, like my kitchen table instead of my tall counters, helps me get better leverage on the beast.
4. Grab two bowls—one for your perfectly cut squash and the other for the peel and seeds. This helps keep a clean workspace.
Now that you’ve set up your work area, let’s talk anatomy. For the sake of being totally clear, identify the two parts of the butternut squash: the round ball section, known as the “head,” and the other long “neck” portion. When picking a squash I look for one with a long neck portion because that’s one hundred percent full of meat. It’s easiest to cut the neck portion into neat little squares. On the other hand, the head section is full of guts (sorry) and only some meat.
Cut the squash, separating the neck and head.
Trim the end of the neck so that you’ll have a fresh starting point to get to the meat.
Stand up the neck portion on one of the cut sides and using downward motion, slice the skin off using your knife. Remove all of the skin in this fashion by rotating the squash after each cut.
Once the neck has been completely peeled, cut the head in half.
Peel off the skin in the same way as you did the neck, always moving the knife down and away from your body. It is near halloween but you don’t want blood and gore on your precious squash, do you?
With your work station clear of the peels and seeds, you’re ready to dice up the meat.
Cut the head portions into even strips.
Then turn the strips from the head and cut into the opposite direction.
Divide the neck portion into thirds lengthwise so that you’ll have thinner portions, in order to obtain a better dice.
Cut the neck portions as well into even strips.
Cut the strips in the opposite direction, creating an even dice. Try to keep pieces close to the same size so that they’ll cook evenly in the oven.
Place diced squash into your bowl to keep your space clear.
Spread squash onto baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in 400 degrees oven for about 25 minutes.