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Butternut Squash Puree

March  4, 2011

Butternut Squash Puree

- Amanda

My husband Tad treats grocery shopping like a general maps out a battle plan. Grocery shopping is an act that must be executed with extreme efficiency and laser-like focus. Your moves must be plotted in a clear and detailed list form, and there is no room for whim, no mercy for the hard-to-find ingredient.

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As part of his battle plan, Tad does not like to switch up the shopping list and instead buys the same 17 items week after week. Which is why our kitchen was nearly overrun by butternut squash this winter. They arrived every week, on cue, and immediately got redirected to the holding pen (aka our mantle). We roasted the squash, and we added it to stews, but mostly they were relegated to mantle still lifes.

So on a recent Sunday evening, when there was barely a scrap of food to feed my kids for dinner, the butternut squash finally came in handy. I wanted a puree, but dinner was already late, so I winged an easier method. Inspired by Alice Waters's technique of braising fennel in olive oil over aggressive heat, I cooked butternut squash cubes the same way, piling them in a pan, drenching them in oil and cooking them covered until very tender. As the squash fried, it also steamed, concentrating the flavor and cooking off the liquid. Once it was tender, I simply crushed the squash directly in the pan with a potato masher. There's something about cooking the squash in the oil that makes the puree so much silkier. Add a splash of cream at the end and you'll be happily fed. And when your husband isn't looking, give away the rest of the squashes.

Butternut Squash Puree

Serves 4

  • 6 cups cubed (1/2-inch) butternut squash (from about 1 medium squash)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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  • SWTorrey
  • bmallorca
  • boulangere
  • Jean | Delightful Repast
    Jean | Delightful Repast
  • Victoria Carr
    Victoria Carr
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SWTorrey March 7, 2011
Just made this, but "cheated" with peeled halved squash from WF. Served with parmesan cod. 2 thumbs up from my 5- and 7-y-o taste testers!
bmallorca March 7, 2011
I tried a new butternut squash chopping method just last night. Not sure where I read it, but I microwaved a whole squash just long enough to take the knife go through more easily, about 5 minutes. It definitely makes it easier to cut. (Then I used a regular peeler.)

I will try your cooking method soon, but not sure if puree will go over at our house. . .

Soozll, I wish I was your neighbor--I LOVE butternut squash!
boulangere March 6, 2011
I used to actually avoid using butternut squash because I found it such a pain to peel. But I finally decided that was just silly, and use a method much like janieinthekitchen's. I take off the top and bottom, then separate the neck from the bulb, and carve down the outside of each separately. The most useful piece of information here for me is the mantel as a storage spot. The living room could use some spots of that yellow-orangey color. Thank you so much, Amanda!
Jean |. March 6, 2011
It's been so long since I've peeled a butternut squash, I don't want to jump into the fray about how best to do it! For years now I've been simply cutting the butternut in half, throwing it into the oven, then scooping out the cooked flesh and mashing it or pureeing it. Seems the simplest way to me.
Victoria C. March 6, 2011
My go-to recipe for butternut squash is adapted from The Frog Commissary Cookbook. I take 2 medium-size butternut squash, wash them whole (so when I cut them, I don't introduce any dirt), cut them in half, remove the seeds, wrap in aluminum foil, and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender - usually about one hour. Then I scoop the flesh into my food processor, add a walnut-size lump of butter, a little honey, a little salt, and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cardamom and ground cloves. I blitz it, taste for seasoning, and add a little more salt or honey as needed. You can, of course, always add more butter if you like. I don't add any pepper, either white or black. It is really delicious and beautiful.
Margy@hidethecheese March 6, 2011
I'm with Rharrison! This technique is how our Trinidadian nanny taught me to make "pumpkin" (although she always uses butternut squash). We just use garlic, olive oil, salt, and the squash, cook it covered, and mash it at the end. We eat it served with roti, and it is perfect for a quick delicious dinner. We have a bit of a squash collection habit, too, so we've been making quite a lot of this this winter.
michelle_brown March 6, 2011
I use the Rosle peelers - they are very sharp and cut through the skin of butternut squash very easily.
JaneinWellesley March 5, 2011
I just have to jump into the "squash-peeling debate!" I suggest getting rid of the peeler altogether, and use a nice sharp large knife. Slice the top and bottom off, then slice it into 2"-3" rounds, stand each one up and slice off the peel. One, two three, you're done and your hands aren't aching.

About the only thing easier is chiocolat's suggestion not to peel at all, but I'm just too much of a purist to leave the peel on.
rharrison March 4, 2011
This method reminds me of the West Indian-style "steamed pumpkin" I used to make regularly. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I would shred the squash (sometimes i used acorn, other times I would buy a piece of some type of enormous squash that was rather generically called "pumpkin". the shops in my Brooklyn neighborhood would cut and wrap big wedges of it.), rather than cube it, and toss it in with plenty of olive oil and just-golden minced garlic, add thyme and habanero, cover and let it simmer into a puree. No cream or mashing required, but rich and savory. Perfect with some sauteed greens and rice and beans.
Amanda H. March 4, 2011
Very cool -- thanks for sharing that. If you have a recipe, please add it to the site. I'm sure others would love to make it, as well!
Kitchen B. March 4, 2011
I love the thyme and chilli.......and I love BNS.
rharrison March 7, 2011
Thanks for the encouragement. It was not really a recipe -- more of a loosely defined method -- but I will try to quantify it for my first food52 recipe contribution!
labingha March 4, 2011
This sounds fabulous. My mantle is buckling under the weight of four butternut squashes right now, the product of a mismanaged CSA "do not deliver" list! Now if only I could find something to do with all the farfalle that arrives after my own grocery general makes his targeted assault on the aisles.
Amanda H. March 4, 2011
Bowties for mice? But seriously, do you have kids? Great item for crafts.
Jo B. March 4, 2011
I find microwaving a whole butternut squash for about 3 minutes makes peeling much easier. After microwaving, I cut the neck from the bulbous bottom and peel the neck, then stand it on end like a column and cut it in half. Safer that way--easier to slice in half peeled. After slicing in half, I slice into half moons, then cube a stack of half moons.

For the bulbous bottom, I cut before peeling. First I set it sideways, cut off the end so I can stand it up safely, slice the bulb in half, then seed. Then I peel the halves, and do the same slice/cube as for the neck. I actually find this easier than roasting and scraping out the flesh, not sure why!

Roasted butternut squash cubes (olive oil, s/p/herb) with cubes of any of these: celeriac, pear, apple, potato, turnip, etc., is fantastic.
Amanda H. March 4, 2011
Fantastic tip -- thank you.
jwolfsthal March 4, 2011
I can make almost anything creamy and delicious is I add heavy cream to it too. yum!
Soozll March 4, 2011
I cut the squash before I peel it. My hands are small, and I just have the hardest time trying to peel those big, heavy monsters. I halved the squash, bulb from narrow end, and scoop out the seeds, then cut each half into strips, the width of the cubes I wanted. I then peeled each strip. We grew butternut last summer and I have tons of it. I can't even give it away now. The neighbors run when they see me coming towards them with it. It's not like I'm foisting off the dreaded zucchini overload!
chiocolat March 4, 2011
Soozll, I don't peel my squash at all. Ever. Maybe if you skip it it'll make getting through your squash a bit easier !
Amanda H. March 4, 2011
Loving all the squash-peeling debate!