Some food, some drink.
RecipeBeta: Maple-Bacon Butternut Squash Sticks
Abstract: Beta recipes are my own experiments
that I've only tried once. Usually palatable, they often could be
better with a little tweaking - So please do, and let us know what
Hot on the heels of the zucchini coming in, our garden has blessed us with enough butternut squash that I can afford to be a creative with minimal regret if I happen to screw something up. With this particular experiment, I'm pleased to say that ain't what happened. For this recipe, the perfect amount of char is applied to two-bite fingers of roasted squash that have been swaddled in bacon. To finish, I coated these bright-orange beauties with a maple glaze infused with fresh sage and a chile kick.
Purpose: I've always considered butternut
squash a treat where vegetables are concerned. Even prepared simply,
that vivid color alludes to a richer flavor than folks tend to
associate with squash. Where most squash applications look to use
the gourd as a medium to carry the flavor, butternut squash can
stand on its own; which means that big flavors won't drown out it's
We used our oven very little when growing up, deferring most often to the stove-top or microwave (hey, it was the 80s!). So now given the choice, I tend to over-compensate and apply “high and dry” heat to anything I can. Whether to caramelize sugars, or to get that wonderful umami that comes only from a Maillard reaction, I love to brown my food.
This recipe is a browned-food three-fer. We get our first layer of browned goodness from the roasted squash; which is then wrapped up in a layer of browned pork fat. To complete the chromatic flavor trifecta, a layer of just-spicy-enough caramelized maple sugar brings the whole wonderful mess together.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
For the glaze, bring jalapeno, sage and syrup just to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
For the butternut squash, preheat oven to 425F. Split each squash transversely at the beginning of the bulbous area where the seeds begin. Peel and cut the seedless end into 4-5 inch long sticks that are roughly a square inch thick. Wrap each squash stick with a half-strip of bacon and place on a wire rack nested in a pan (to catch the ensuing greasy mess). Season with the salt and pepper blend to taste (you probably won't use it all). Roast for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and brush liberally with the maple glaze. Roast for another 15 minutes, taking care to brush on more glaze at the 7.5 minute mark and finally as the squash comes out of the oven. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with any additional maple glaze.
- Use the thicker flesh of the seedless end of the butternut to make your sticks, and save the thinner meat of the seed-laden end for other applications.
- For a pound of squash sticks, you'll need the seedless portions of approximately two medium (two-pound) butternuts; that's about four pounds of unprocessed squash.
- On breaking down the vegetable of interest: separate the seedless end from the bulb with a heavy knife or cleaver and then proceed to remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or serrated knife. If you use a peeler, it might take a couple go-'rounds.
- If you have a convection setting in your oven, I'd use it, as it can only help to facilitate browning. For my oven, that means wheeling back the temperature to 400F for the same amount of time.
- Pleeeeeease use real maple syrup for the glaze. If you just don't have any, a third-cup of brown sugar with a couple of tablespoons of water will probably still taste better than pancake syrup.
- I like the red (ripe) jalapenos for this, as the heat tastes less raw to me. Just make sure to get the seeds and placenta out of there, as we we're shooting for subtlety here.
- I'd let your sticks rest five minutes before removing them from the rack and serving. Otherwise, they'll be more liable to fall apart on the way to the plate. Plus, no one really cares for steam burns from a mouthful of still-cooking squash.
Results: The great thing about roasting this
particular vegetable is that you get a thin layer of smoky-brown
flavor that encapsulates that almost-fluffy packet of subtly sweet
butternut squash. I bet this application would be good with (pie)
pumpkin and maybe even sweet potatoes as well. Given the fact that I
didn't hose it up in the predictable confines of the oven, a grilled
variant might also be a possibility.
I'm really pleased with the way this experiment turned out. So pleased, in-fact that couldn't help myself and ate all sixteen ounces of squash in one go <burp>. About half-way through, I instinctively ditched the fork and found myself licking my fingers to savor every bit of spicy-sweet flavor. If you have a thing for butternut squash, and you have to share, it might be a good idea to double this dish.