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Will It Hasselback? (The Answer is Probably Yes)

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I feel confident in saying that I am not the only one who took an involuntary moment of silence upon viewing the Hasselback Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves in Bon Appétit's November issue.

the squash that, in my mind, started it all

In case you haven't seen the thing, it's a butternut squash halved and belly down, its back rising triumphantly on the platter (imagine: a humpback whale breaching the water's surface).

Cutting through its skin are what appear to be (and what are!) millions of extremely precise slits less than 1/8 inch apart (imagine: the lines left by wind in desert sand). Each slice has either smiled and frowned under the oven's heat; the golden-browness along the cuts indicates crispiness. Tucked gingerly into a few fissures are bay leaves and, resting atop the squash's humps, balance carefully placed chile slivers.

Ah, it is a sight to behold!

BA's Awe-Inspiring Squash

BA's Awe-Inspiring Squash

Its Likeness

Its Likeness

But more than sheer preternatural beauty, the squash also has innovation on its side: We shrug at hasselback potatoes (named, according to Julia Moskin, after the Stockholm hotel where it was invented in the 1950s), but squash? I hadn't seen it before.

And since Bon Appétit's recipe came on the scene, I've noticed—and feel free to mock me here—a mini resurgence in hasselbacking (grammaticians, turn away). People are hasselbacking it all. When in doubt, hasselback. Hasselback or bust. Hasselback or be hasselbacked.

Personally, I've never had the patience to make all those surgical incisions, but advantages of hasselbacking include...

  • An extremely impressive appearance
  • A larger surface area for crispy, caramelized edges
  • Ample opportunity to insert stuff (cheese, breadcrumbs, butter, spices, syrups) into the flesh of whatever you're hasselbacking
  • Assurance that you will probably be happy with whatever you make since it took so many slices to reach that point?

You have reason to be wary of dryness, but hopefully you'll compensate for that with lots of butter (and in the case of BA's butternut, with basting every 10 minutes for an hour—eep!).

So, what can you hasselback? And what hasn't been hasselbacked yet (read: opportunity to be a H.B. pioneer)?

Hasselback Potato Skillet Bake

Hasselback Potato Skillet Bake by Kat Suletzki

Hasselback Apple Cake

Hasselback Apple Cake by Food52

Will it hasselback?

  • Potatoes: Yes. Not news.
  • Sweet potatoes: Yes.
  • Apples: Yes. Here, a honey-orange glaze drips into all the apple slices. (Favorite part of the recipe instructions: "This is hasselbacking." This is Sparta.)
  • Delicata Squash: Yes. The thin skin makes it easier to cut (at the same time that it makes hasselbacking less necessary).
  • Hard-boiled egg: Probably not a good idea but haven't seen it done yet.
  • Eggplant: Yes, and there's even a Cook's Science recipe that comes with a smart tip—place chopsticks on either side of the eggplant as you slice to prevent the knife from cutting all the way through.
  • Sausage: It's been done. Salami, too.
  • Chicken breast: Can't say I recommend it, but it's been done.
  • Tofu: Yes.
  • Cauliflower: Are you crazy?
  • Green beans: If you're crazy. You could use a teeny razor or Xacto knife to make the tiny incisions—might be fun!
  • Zucchini and summer squash: Sure (but sounds kind of watery, right?).
  • Pears: Yes. Halve and core them first.
  • Beets: Uh huh.
  • Persimmon: Haven't seen it happen yet. Go for it!
  • Bread: We're really pushing the limit of "hasselback" here, but many have claimed to do it. And it looks extremely good-tasting (but also a lot like garlic bread?).
  • Tomatoes: Yep. Seems kind of funny since you'll have to just slice them completely to eat them anyway.
  • Fish: I kid, I kid!
  • Meat: Time for this list to be over, I'd say.

Have you had success hasselbacking? Have you tried BA's squash? Share an experience in the comments below.

Tags: Tips & Techniques, So Hot Right Now, Food News, Ephemera